HIALEAH, Fla. - Two-year-old Jordan was wearing an orange T-shirt. From the stands, he watched his eight-year-old brother, Georgie, step in the field with the West Kendall Dolphins team.
His four-year-old brother, Justin, was also wearing orange. Jordan tried to mimic him, as he waved his arms with excitement. The Miami Jets 85-pound team was trying to score. Georgie, 8, was playing center defense.
Jordan's mom, Stephanie Cabrera, was trying to keep Jordan from falling. His dad, who played football in high school, was shouting anxiously: "block him! block him!" The crowd was loud. A woman waved a bell and another was blowing a whistle.
"The boys love the Miami Dolphins and UM [University of Miami]. Jordan was born with a ball in his hand," Cabrera, 27, said. "He is going to play with the West Kendall Dolphins like his brothers. They are super happy with this league."
The West Kendall Dolphins and the Miami Jets were some of the dozens of teams opening their Miami Xtreme Youth Football League season Saturday at Milander Park, 4700 Palm Ave., in Hialeah. About 3,500 players from 19 parks took turns through the day. The first kickoff game was at 9 a.m., and scrimmages continued until about 11 p.m.
This year, the league and USA Football's certified about 500 coaches on safety procedures such as concussion awareness and equipment fitting. The National Council for Accreditation of Coaching Education certified USA Football. Sen. Marco Rubio was one of the coaches.
Also this year, the league was focusing on getting more sponsors and keeping a close eye on finances. Several Miami-Dade and Miami police officers volunteer on the league. In 2013, the league's former treasurer Guillermo Manuel Chacon was arrested for embezzling about $50,000 from the league. He agreed to reimburse $30,000.
"This league is organized and everything is done by the book," Miami Jets coach Deayne Cooley said. "The league is there for every body. The Miami Police Department's Pal program helps those who don't have money. There is always a way to get them uniforms. No one gets turned away."
Miami Jets coach Jose Rios said the league, founded in 2000 with only four teams, places an emphasis on helping the kids build character and keep up with good grades. Values such as discipline, honesty and perseverance are emphasized, Rios said, and "coaches have to set the example."
Proud parents Ninoska Carballo and Dayton Rodriguez were wearing forest green Miami Jets jerseys with the number 25. Rodriguez had a tattoo on his left arm with his son's name. They watched their son, Nicolas, closely, as he played on the field against the West Kendall Dolphins.
Rodriguez, of Allapattah, turned toward Carballo with a smile. "Did you see that? He sacked the quarterback and threw an interception."
Miami Jets Coach Dante Cuxart, 21, later called Nicolas to the sideline and said "Good job!" The eight-year-old took off his helmet and smiled. He wiped off drops of sweat above his eyebrows and looked over to wave to his parents.
"It feels real good to know that my family supports me," said Nicolas, who usually wears number 25, but was 80 Saturday.
When the game ended, Cuxart jumped up and down. He and other coaches contained their excitement just in time to get the kids to line up to say good bye to their opponents. They exited the field to pray the "Our Father" in unison under the bleachers.
Nicolas said he knew they won, but did not know the score. The Jets won 14-0, Cuxart said. Other coaches and players were not sure. Cooley said they won 6-0. Coaches Jorge Rodriguez, 35, Isaac Williams, 21, and Derek Colston, 39, said the score was 12-0. The children lined up for bags of sliced oranges and water. They were thirsty. None of them talked about the score.
The West Kendall Dolphins brothers were not upset with the loss. As their parents packed up their pick-up truck to leave the park, Jordan and Georgie were eating watermelon. Justin was playing with a ball.
"I don't care that we didn't win," Georgie said. "I had fun. We all had fun. The Jets were good. We did our best. It's not about winning, you know."
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