Local Town Pages - Millis has had some great success, of late, with its football program. But, the small town, big family charm doesn’t always serve well when it comes to enough players to safely run a varsity football team. Next year, on its own after a coop with Hopedale was forced to end, Millis Varsity Football maynot have the 25 10th-12th grade players for a team. Millis Athletic Director Chuck Grant is looking into the option of a coop partnership with the Norfolk County Agricultural High School, in Walpole. Such a partnership would, hopefully, bring the number of players to over 24 for safe practicing.
Millis might not have this problem if it had a youth football program, says Brian Kraby, who teaches social studies at Millis High School. Kraby is looking to launch a Youth Football and Cheerleading Program for Millis children aged 9 to 12, in accordance with American Youth Football rules.
“The future of football in Millis is sort of a crisis mode. We’re at a very weird time, when we’re not sure if we have enough kids for a (varsity) team, and I want to make sure football in Millis doesn’t die,” says Kraby “Millis is talking to other schools for possible coops for a sort year deal, but I’m thinking long term. What we’re trying to do is have a 4th, 5th, and 6th grade team, and then in middle school kids can play middle school football. If we start this now, then five years from now, we don’t have to have this conversation.”
Millis A.D. Grant likes the idea. “A youth football program is a vital feeder system to the school program,” says Grant. “It certainly helps by enhancing the program’s ability to sustain itself at a safe level of numbers.”
Kraby, who lauds the recently created Millis Middle School team, which boasted 30 7th and 8th grade players last year, says “Football has molded me. I played youth football and played for Millis in high school, even winning a Superbowl with only 18 players on the team.” Kraby served as a co-captain for the Millis team in 1994, he coached all levels, freshmen, junior varsity and varsity from 1997-2007, leaving for two years to coach in Framingham and then returning to coach in Millis from 2008-2014.
“My solution to try to solve the problem to help this is to build a foundation from the bottom, build a culture from the bottom, firstly, building that morality, teaching kids respect and responsibility,” says Kraby. “My vision is to create this youth team and have it flow naturally to the middle school team and have that flow to the high school team, so we don’t have that lull we’ve been having for the past few years.”
Kraby says he’s inspired by his father, who has since passed away, and who was a very inspiring figure for his age group. Now, with four children of his own and his own oldest about to turn 9, Kraby’s thoughts have turned to creating the same opportunities he had.
“Norfolk, Medfield and Millis Pop Warner has died out, but we do have a flag football program in town that boasts 370 kids,” says Kraby. “I think flag is great. I coached the last three seasons with my own sons.”
American Youth Football, however, is tackle, with helmets, shoulder pads, and leg pads.
“Flag is fun, because it’s 5 on 5, but contact is 11 on 11,” says Kraby. “In some towns, when you have flag and youth, they fight for kids, but I don’t mind kids continuing to play flag and tackle. That’s fine for me. I really want to work to … create a communication between these organizations so we can work together. Obviously, some people, when they hear tackle, they cringe, but at the high school level last year, there was not one concussion because of what a great job Coach Olson does on tackling. We don’t tackle with the head. Everything is head out.”
Safety is a number one priority for Kraby in his vision for a youth football team. That includes protecting the players with good equipment.
“Funding is needed, because you want to equip the kids with the best helmets possible,” says Kraby. “
On January 16th, Kraby held his first information session at Millis Public Library. Although a small number of people came to the meeting, he has since seen growing interest from parents.
Kraby has also sought out the advice of Medway Youth Football, and he says they were extremely supportive.
“I went to talk to Medway, because they have their own youth and flag programs to learn about the process of creating a team. John Farrell is the president, and he was more than willing to accept Millis kids into the Medway program, which is another option if we don’t have enough kids. I’d say we need 20 kids to have a team.”
Kraby, although grateful for the offer, still hopes to try to start the program in Millis.
“We’re trying to save Millis football first, but I want to say how grateful I am that they welcomed us with open arms."
Both girls and boys are welcome to sign up for football or cheer, and if parents are interested, they can reach Brian Kraby at Briankraby67@hotmail.com.