A. J. Parise youngsters work hard for 2012 season

PUNXSUTAWNEY — The future PAHS football stars have been sweating out practice in the A. J. Parise youth football program since July 25 in anticipation for the 2012 season. The youngsters started working in full pads two weeks ago and have been hitting hard ever since.

The 75-plus youngsters, 15 coaches and many parents watching, pack into the Punxsy Borough Police firing range, which serves as the practice field, Monday to Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. to work on drills for the upcoming season.

Their first game will be held Aug. 18 in Punxsy against Grove City.

The Bantums, 7-8 year- olds, juniors, 9-10, and seniors 11-12, develop their footwork, work on tackling drills and cover all the offensive basics too.

The drills vary from the different age groups. The Bantums work on less complex drills; for example, they did a drill where a defender had to be beat a running offensive player to a spot by sprinting at an angle to cut him off.

The juniors and seniors work on more advanced drills. They do ladder drills to work on footwork, run forwards and backwards around cones and practice tackling drills by dropping to the ground, rolling, then getting back up to tackle a bag.

"This is a good group of kids, no attitudes or anything, everybody's here to work hard," said Joel Martin, A. J. Parise head coach.

Martin instills a focus on defense and running into his aspiring football stars.

"Play solid defense, run the ball," said Martin. "With young people, that's a good basis; if you can block and tackle you're doing good."

During this week of practice leading up to the first game, the juniors and seniors will begin to work on special teams. They will work diligently to develop their punting, kicking and return team units.

Martin has seen improvements in his squads from the previous year, as well as notable enhancements since the first day of practice. He believes he will have a stronger senior squad than last year's team.

"The 12-year-old kids, you can tell maturity-wise that they've grown up and understand a little bit more of the game of football," said Martin.