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Weston Embraces New Football And Cheer Program

WESTON, Conn. – Fred Lawrence battled mixed emotions when he decided to join the coaching staff of the Weston Youth Football program. Lawrence, who coaches the eighth grade team, had coached with the Aspetuck Valley Wildcats for five years. Joining the first-year league was a hard choice.

“It was hard, because I had been there for five years and there were a lot of good people,’’ said Lawrence, whose team plays its opening game in the Fairfield County Football League this weekend. “The thing that made it hard was leaving the kids in Easton and Redding. I had grown attached to all of them. But this is a great opportunity to have the kids learn Coach (Joe) Lato’s system and to have all the Weston kids playing together.”

The new Weston youth football group will have four teams playing tackle football in the league. It also has flag football and cheerleading squads. About 230 children are registered for the Weston youth program, a significant increase from the participation with Aspetuck Valley. In cheerleading alone, Weston capped its registration at 70 girls. Only nine Weston girls participated in cheerleading with Aspetuck Valley, which includes children from Easton, Redding and Weston.

“We knew the kids were there and the appetite was there,’’ said Steve Santamaria, the league’s president. “We have a lot of people coming in at the younger age groups interested in the flag football and cheer programs. The response from the community has been terrific.”

Joe Lato, head coach at Weston High School, was the driving force behind the new league. Now, every player coming through the lower levels will know the philosophy of the high school program before they get there. “We’re developing Weston football players,’’ Lawrence said. “We’re trying to build the whole system, not only with football but also academics. We’re trying to get every coach and every player on the same page.”

Lawrence believes the new league has several advantages. Weston will be competing against Fairfield County towns such as Westport, Darien and New Canaan that have had success at the high school level. In addition, the teams are a short drive away. “The kids are competing against players they’ve seen in other sports,’’ Lawrence said. “There’s a friendly, competitive spirit.”

As with any change, some people wondered whether the new program in Weston would work. The early signs indicate that it will. “We’re pleasantly surprised,’’ Santamaria said. “The community has rallied around it. Coach Lato has been very involved in putting this together, and we’re excited to kick it off.”

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