Home Local Sports Richmond Youth Football Association Kicks Off Season with Fundraiser

Richmond Youth Football Association Kicks Off Season with Fundraiser

Raiders Football Helmet.

ROCKINGHAM – With the winding down of summer comes the vamping up of fall sports, and for dozens of Richmond County’s youngsters, the best organization to participate in is the Richmond Youth Football Association.

Termed the “Baby Raiders”, RYFA is a non-profit travel football organization that introduces young athletes to the fundamentals of the sport, while training and preparing them for the possibility of playing for Richmond Senior High School. Local coaching legend Errol Hood serves as RYFA’s president, with the assistance of vice president Joe Padilla.

Hood, who played cornerback for the University of North Carolina from 1997-2001, brings an eclectic skillset and intangible experience to the members of his program. The Baby Raiders, which are a part of the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), are designated as a “feeder program” for RSHS. What Hood, Padilla and the “family” of roughly a dozen other certified coaches hope to do is develop rising athletes to meet and understand the skills and expectations required to play at the high school level.

“We are a feeder program to the high school,” Hood said. “Whatever they do, we do so we can jumpstart everybody’s career and get the talent going. We study the language of the (Richmond) coaches, and we try to speak that same language to the kids so that whenever they get to the ninth grade, they’re already prepared.”

With four squads, starting with age eight and under, all the way to age 14, Hood and his staff have been able to build a widely recognized and respected program. In 2016, the 14U team went undefeated and was one of two North Carolina teams to qualify to play in the national playoffs, entering as the fourth-ranked team in the nation. Though they didn’t win the championship, they established a winning reputation, and will start the 2017 season as the No. 3 ranked team in the state.

Hood has helped produce many Richmond football players since beginning his program in 2010. In regards to last year’s 14U team, of the 18 players, 16 made the junior varsity team at RSHS this year. Hood’s son, Caleb Hood, made the varsity squad as a freshman.

As the AAU season is set to get underway on Saturday, September 9, 2017, the Baby Raiders are one of just many teams in the Sandhills getting ready. Like RYFA, many surrounding counties have feeder programs, many of whom will play Richmond. Slated on RYFA’s schedule are Scotland County and several Cumberland County and Wake County teams, all with the intention to allow younger players to become acclimated to future opponents. The season will run until Saturday, October 28, 2017, with the state and national playoffs to follow.

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Despite having a towering presence and a powerful physique, Hood has just one soft spot; which is his willingness to give back to the kids of the community that took him in not long ago. Adopted by RSHS’ famed head coach Paul Hoggard, who led the Raiders to a state championship in 2008, he asked Hood if he would return to Richmond County and start a youth football program. Hood graciously obliged.

“I came back to Richmond County to give back,” Hood said. “I’m here to help the kids become stronger football players and young people.”

Padilla, who works as a teacher at Ashley Chapel Educational Center for Richmond County Schools, understands the necessity to help coach these young men. His son, Asher, plays on the 8U team, and he finds helping all the players to be rewarding.

“To be able to come out here and help these guys grow and develop, that’s awesome,” Padilla said. “Coach Hood is a great man who is helping this community. We are helping our youth develop life skills that they can use on and off the field. Some of my students even play for us.”

The Baby Raiders will travel to Charlotte on August 19, 2017, for a preseason jamboree, and will host a fundraising jamboree at RSHS on August 26, 2017.

Players are required to pay a $50 fee to participate, but to help supply uniforms and playing equipment, RYFA will be hosting a BBQ plate fundraiser on Thursday, August 24, 2017. Smoking Ain’t Easy, an award-winning BBQ team, will be cooking the BBQ, which has been donated by Smithfield’s. Orders can be picked up at Tha Shack, located at 2206 Fayetteville Road in Rockingham. For deliveries, call (716) 359-5867. All proceeds will benefit RYFA.

 

RYFA is still in need of local sponsors who are willing to donate to assist in team transportation and traveling costs. Anyone interested can contact Hood at (910) 331-6896 for more information.

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Kyle Pillar is a nine-time North Carolina Press Association award-winning sports editor with The Richmond Observer. Follow the sports department on Twitter @ROSports_ for the best in-depth coverage of Richmond County sports.