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It’s been a long time in the making, and it’s finally happening.

Youth football coaches in St. Mary’s and Calvert counties are gearing up with a merger in full effect.

Three youth football teams in St. Mary’s County and six teams in Calvert County will now compete against each other, and not just in preseason scrimmages. The teams will no longer fall under their respective county’s parks and recreation departments. The nine teams will conduct their own fundraising.

“We’ve been talking about it for years,” said Kerm Nored, president of Mechanicsville Braves Youth Football and Cheer. “We established a relationship with them during the scrimmages. I think it’s a good thing and a major step for the history of the league. Youth football is changing. The kids are only getting better, and for that to continue, they need to branch out outside of their own league to see different looks.”

The Mechanicsville Braves, Leonardtown Wildcats and the Pax River Raiders will compete against the Beach Buccaneers, the Dunkirk Warriors, Huntingtown Hurricanes, Prince Frederick Eagles, Owings Outlaws and the Solomons Steelers.

Nored and Calvert County coordinator Jimmy Niland, also head of the Buccaneers, would also like to see Charles County join the league, but that is on hold right now. Niland wants to see the league get off the ground and work out all of the bugs in the first couple years.

“We’ve been talking about it now for about three years,” Niland said. “Every time we went to Parks and Rec about it, they’d shoot it down. It’s a good thing; I’m really looking forward to it.”

Niland said he will always remember one particular game.

“They were very competitive,” Niland said. “It’s been a few years, but I remember the Turkey Bowl. There was sleet and snow, and our peewees were playing the Braves. I know they were freezing, but they didn’t want to quit. They played so tough.”

Coaches are ready to pass on new knowledge after attending a coaches clinic at DeMatha High School in Prince George’s County during the first weekend of March. The clinic was run by guest speaker Larry Johnson, defensive line coach at Penn State.

Speakers included offensive line coach Jonathan Himebauch of Wake Forest, defensive line coach Kevin Lewis of Dartmouth, special teams coach Kermit Buggs of the University of Connecticut, passing concepts instructor Chris Damian of Monmouth University (N.J.), Mark Goodson of DeMatha and Johnson.

“The clinic was outstanding, and I’m very happy we were able to attend,” Nored said. “The other Braves coaches as well as myself learned a lot. At minimum, we will be implementing the offensive line and defensive line techniques that we learned from Wake Forest and Dartmouth.”

Todd Hoffert’s son Vontae Hoffert will be playing his last year with the Braves. Todd said he’s glad to know that the league has some stability now.

“They have a five-year contract now,” Todd Hoffert said. “We’ve been playing in the AYF [American Youth Football] for two years. This is my son’s last year, but I was excited when I heard. I wish it could have taken place sooner, but I’m sure there were various people it had to go through.”

Vontae started playing football when he was four years old and was a productive running back last year. He also plays defense. His team finished 9-3 last season and were the Division II Champions.

“We’ve played Prince George’s teams in the postseason, and they were used to the weight classes,” Todd Hoffert said, “Our ages and weight classes line up better with Calvert County. I’m really excited. It also cuts some of the traveling time for parents.”

The league will be open to children 6 to 14. The unlimited middle school players will not have a weight class, but all other age groups will. The first day of practice will be Aug. 1, and games will begin Sept. 1 with playoffs starting near mid-November.

The league’s website is under construction at the moment. For more information, contact bravesinfo@mechanicsvillebraves.org.

tshowalter@somdnews.com