Young Sparta footballers play on NFL turf

3rd and 5th graders at MetLife Stadium

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  • Sparta 3rd grade team on the Jumbo-Tron at MetLife. Photos provided by SYF

  • Spartans Youth Football Player Mason Lindsay takes a selfie with Giants Pro-Bowl Safety Landon Collins.

  • Spartans 3rd grade running back Quinn Klebez scores on a run from 30 yards out.

  • Sparta Spartans 3rd graders huddling around coach, and Sparta mayor, Josh Hertzberg after the team scored and came off the field.

  • 5th grader #7 Luke Spellman with a 25 yard run while #20 Eric McCall clears the way.

  • #24 Marcus Aquino with a big tackle on Wallkill’s first possession with #1 Ty Plotts giving chase.

  • The 5th grade boys get a last-minute pep talk from the coaches before entering the stadium

  • Anxious 5th grade team "patiently" waiting for their game time. From left, #20 Eric McCall #12 Antonios Dimogerodakis #2 Anthony Settembre #5 Sebastian Chiong #45 Trevor Ekeland #54 Brady Shagawat and 3rd grader #42 Landon Ekland

  • Giants were a class act as the lined up to meet the 3rd graders

  • 3rd grader, Quinn Klebez, on his long run for a touchdown.

by Mandy Coriston

— Members of the Sparta Youth Football League, their coaches, families, and fans traveled to MetLife Stadium — home field to both the New York Giants and the New York Jets — on Friday, August 24, 2018 for the pre-season game between the Giants and the Jets. Moreover, the outing had something truly special in store for the league’s 3rd-grade and 5th-grade teams. In addition to taking in the game between the area’s two professional football franchises, the players put on their own show when they got to run through the tunnel onto the field and play scrimmages with teams from Manalapan and Wallkill Valley.

The trip and the scrimmage opportunity were organized by Sparta Youth Football President Tim Lindsay, who also coaches the third-graders, along with Sparta Mayor Joshua Hertzberg.

“I had the chance to tour the Jets training facility (in Florham Park), and that’s where the discussion began to hold this outing,” Lindsay said, “And there was a lot of support for it.”

The agreement offered by the Jets organization is for youth football clubs to sell tickets to their communities in exchange for the kids getting to play on the field, and Spartans snapped up 400 tickets to the game. This is Lindsay’s third year as president of the Sparta Youth Football League, where he has coached for the last ten. He said there’s been talk of an event like this for a while now, but he was proud to have been able to bring it to fruition this year.

“The whole experience was really amazing for the kids,” Lindsay said, “This is a memory they can have for a lifetime.”

The experience was memorable for Mayor Hertzberg, too.

“It was a special night for the 400 Spartans in attendance to cheer on their football teams, and even more special for those players who represented Sparta on the field,” Hertzberg said, “I was honored to coach one of the 3rd-grade teams, and was especially proud as we marched through the halls of MetLife with my 3rd-graders chanting ‘We are Sparta!’ Nobody had to ask where these little guys were from, but you could see the surprise from the MetLife staff to see such glowing pride from such little football players.”

Hertzberg also said the 3rd- and 5th- grade teams represented Sparta with toughness and sportsmanship.

“It was great seeing that our Sparta Youth Football organization has continued the tradition of not only teaching football, but instilling community pride," he said. "I truly was a proud mayor, coach, and especially a proud dad. I also want to give a special thanks to the Giants players who made it a point to line up and high-five each of our players. That deliberate act on their part really topped the night off, and made it extra special for the kids.”

The football weekend didn’t end after the thrill of Friday night’s big stadium experience. The next day, Sparta Youth Football played host to a scrimmage jamboree. The league welcomed 53 teams from around the state, and over a thousand people came into town for the day. Sparta Youth Football Head Coach Ross Richardson organized the event, and credited the township and the Sparta Police Department for their assistance with traffic and logistics.

SYF’s President Tim Lindsay said, “The jamboree went from morning to night without a hitch. Between the scrimmages all day and spending Friday night at MetLife, it was a big football weekend for our kids. We were exhausted, but it was a lot of fun, and it was awesome for the families and the kids.”

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