Football is huge around these parts, and the passion for it is shown at all ages and levels. The breeding ground for much of this local enthusiasm has been the Kingsway Youth Football Association. The league, comprised of kids ages 6-14, has four divisions, as well as a Pee Wee instructional team for kids ages 4-5. This year, its sophomore team, comprised of kids ages 8-9, won its third consecutive Tri-County Midget Football League championship under Coach Eric DiPietro.
Undefeated this season, the sophomores defeated Millville 26-8 for the league title. Amazingly, this group of boys, under DiPietro’s guidance, has only lost once in the last three years. They lost a midseason game to West Deptford last year, only to come back and defeat that same team later in the season in the championship game.
“No one likes to lose,” said DiPietro. “However, it’s an opportunity to see what you’re made of. There are two ways to go. You can put your nose to the grindstone, or you can fold. We chose to grind.”
DiPietro started his football career as a midget player in the Gibbstown Youth Football League. He later went on to play for renowned coach Glenn Howard at Paulsboro High School, where he played fullback and middle linebacker. DiPietro then moved on to play at Widener University.
Moving into the Kingsway district, DiPietro decided to become involved in football again when his son, DJ, joined the freshman team (6-7 year olds). Needing a coach, he signed on immediately, thereby reconnecting with his childhood love. He has been with the same group of boys ever since, moving up with them into the sophomore division.
“It was a chance to spend time with my sons (his younger son, Tommy, plays in the freshman division)” said DiPietro. “I love this game. Coach Howard at Paulsboro taught me the fundamentals of the game. I found that I wanted to share those same lessons with, not only my kid, but all of the kids. They should, and do, play the right way. I want them all to be successful.”
Amazingly, DiPietro has been able to juggle his day job with coaching successfully. As a union electrician, he has been stationed for work in Ocean City, Maryland, a job that requires him to leave by 4:30 a.m. After getting off around 3:30 p.m., he raced up Interstate Rt. 95 right to practice. He returned home from practice around 8:30 p.m. most nights.
“This is a good, special group of boys that came together well,” said DiPietro. “This is more about these kids than me. They got after it, and they were focused. They were prepared to play each day. I’d like to see them continue to grow together. It could be an exciting group for years to come.”
With DiPietro at the helm, there is no doubt that big things are on the horizon for this team.