The Smyrna-Clayton Pop Warner got underway Friday evening with their first practice session of the year.

The Smyrna-Clayton Pop Warner Football and Cheer program is now underway for the 2014 season.

The football squads and cheer squads met for an organization meeting and practice session Friday evening

at the George C. Wright Municipal Park on North Main Street in Smyrna.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Pop Warner in the Smyrna-Clayton area.

League President Pat Ennis said they also held a Food Drive to help the food pantry at the Asbury United Methodist Church in Smyrna.

“We had nice turnout Friday night, not quite as big as the previous year, but we did collect a total of five big bags of food. We may have another food drive during the season to further help the pantry,” he said.

The league has added a fifth team this season, the Tiny Mite football and cheer squads. This is the youngest group of athletes who are five, six or seven years of age.

Ennis, who grew up in the Smyrna area and now reside in Clayton, said his teams play a schedule similar to one played by the local high school in the Henlopen Conference. Smyrna-Clayton will play and cheer against Middletown, Dover-CR, Cape Henlopen, Laurel, Woodbridge, Delmar and Sussex Central. “And this year we will play against teams from Maryland, and we added a team from the Eastern Shore of Virginia, so we added some more travel to our schedule,” said Ennis. The teams will play either seven or eight games, depending on their age group.

“We are trying to build a great program for our kids in Smyrna-Clayton area, and we feel this is a positive example for both our boys and our girls,” added Ennis.

The girls’ Cheer Squads have added another team, as well. Nikki Pressley, one of the Cheer coaches, said they have also added a Tiny Mite squad. “We had a really good turnout this year, and I know my girls are already working hard to get ready for the upcoming season,” she said.

In addition to cheering for their football players, the cheer squads will also participate in competitions during the season, which begins the end of August.

A full rundown of the Smyrna-Clayton Pop Warner Football and Cheer season can be found on the league’s website.

Pop Warner Football & Cheer is an international program operated for the benefit of its youthful participants since 1929.  The program philosophy has been Academics and Athletics go hand in hand.  Pop Warner seeks to develop well-rounded young men and women who learn not only the fundamentals of football or cheerleading, but also the importance of education, in an atmosphere conductive to developing sound mind, body and character and having a good time along the way. (from the Smyrna Pop Warner Web site)