Prince William News
Wed., Nov. 14 - grizzlies-send-seven-to-fcyf-finals
Grizzlies send seven to FCYF finals
© Gainesville TimesWhen Malik Bilal has a free moment at lunch during a work day, his mental sketch board kicks into overdrive.
Though the Bristow resident commutes across Interstate 66 daily to Alexandria, his thoughts are firmly planted back in western Prince William County.
Being a rookie youth football coach can do that sometimes.
There are always plays to draw up, situations to think through and play patterns to consider that maybe he can draw into a practice or game.
"It affected (me) the whole time because it was always on my mind," said Bilal, the head coach of the Gainesville Grizzlies' Anklebiters Division 1 team.
A self-described competitive person who tries to keep the game for kids in perspective, Bilal explained that he "might be reading articles about the proper ways to teach youth for any sport" when ideas occur.
"During my lunch, I'm thinking about my package plan" in between bites of actual food, he said. "'This is what I want to walk through before the game.'"
His team of 7, 8 and 9 year olds just wrapped up their season in the Fairfax County Youth Football League on Saturday, coming up one point short of victory in a 14-13 loss to the Gum Springs Panthers.
Though the Grizzlies are the team name for the Gainesville-Haymarket
Youth Football League, the organization's official competition league is the one based in Fairfax.
Balil's son Malcolm ran in the team's first touchdown and wing back Adam Giger ran a left-side sweep for the Grizzlies' second score.
Anklebiter teams receive one extra point for what would normally be a two-point conversion attempt when the team tries to make it into the end zone again after a touchdown.
Extra point kicks, in a reversal of usual rules, are worth two points.
So even though Gum Springs stuff Gainesville's first attempt at an extra point, Reid Sanders took a direct snap through the four hole and found the plane to put the Grizzlies up 13-0 in the second quarter.
However, back-to-back touchdowns by first-place Gum Springs before half time made it a one-point game and it stayed that way though the second half.
"What got us through most of our games was our defense," said Bilal. "We only gave up two offensive touchdowns and that was in the one game we lost."
That one regular season loss came against the same foe as their championship loss.
"And the reason I would say we lost that game was because of poor tackling," added the coach.
Bilal identified his son, fellow running back and linebacker Jacob Cooke and wing back Tim Noyez as among some standouts on the offensive side of the ball while also highlighting Brent Waldman's snaps from center.
"For the most part all year, he was a very accurate snapper," said Bilal about his center.
As a whole, the Grizzlies broader organization seven teams to the championship games on Nov. 10 but only the 110-pound National 2 division group coached by Tran Toan actually brought home a victory.
Gainesville topped Chantilly 32-27 in that game to put its season mark at 7-2.
Meanwhile, three of the Grizzlies' Anklebiter teams made it to the the finals on Saturday.
Along with Bilal's Division 1 group, Jesse Jackson led the Division 6 Grizzlies to a second-place finish against the Braddock Road Eagles and Jim Mackie's Division 7 team did the same playing the Manassas Sharks.
In the 75-pound, Central 2 division, James Carayiannis's group bouted with the American Pride Falcons. The National 2 division's Grizzlies, coached by Erik Colavita, and Bryson Scott's the 85-pound National 1 Grizzlies also came up with district silvers.
What Bilal said that likely resonates with all the coaches is that leading a youth team is a demanding time commitment.
Sometimes, it necessitates showing up "with your tie on" when coming to practice right after work.
"I think you need to enjoy the game. You need to enjoy working with the kids," he said about what makes a successful volunteer. "I think it's rewarding to see that kid that doesn't know how to play and then the light bulb goes off in their head."
For those who yell from the sidelines, "acting the fool," as Bilal said, "This is not for you."
That is because at the end of the day, "It's 8 year olds playing football. It's not the NFL," he said.
"Have fun, enjoy it and make it fun for the kids," added the coach. "You always need volunteers. Without the volunteers, the league doesn't happen. So if everybody says I work too much and I don't have time, these kids wouldn't have the ability to play."
Though the Fairfax County Youth Football League championships commenced this past Saturday, the Grizzlies' cheerleading rally is set for this upcoming Sunday, Nov. 18 at Patriot High School in Nokesville from 2-4 p.m.
More information about the Grizzlies and the Gainesville-Haymarket
Youth Football League can be found at http://www.grizzlyfootball.org.
Team standings and more information about the FCYFL is located online at http://www.fcyfl.org.