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Local kids earn YAFL sponsorships

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By Dave Kavanaugh

Don’t tell Byron Baca Christmas only comes in December.

The Sierra Vista Elementary fifth-grader was all grins recently when he was pulled out of class to receive one of five New Mexico Land & Title YAFL sponsorships awarded by local businessman Jay Moore and Robertson football coach Raymond Woods.

“You ready to play some football?” Woods asked Baca as he accepted a certificate from Moore. “Yeah!” the youngster exclaimed.

The sponsorships will pay for this fall’s Young Americna Football League registration fees for Baca and the other recipients — Justin Garza, a third-grader at Legion Park; Dominic Lucero, a sixth-grader at Legion; Arjay Ortiz, a third-grader at Paul D. Henry; and Elicia Trujillo, a fifth-grader at Los Nios.

Those five were chosen in a random drawing that included all eligible contest entrants. To be eligible, the young student-athletes had to carry a minimum 3.5 grade point average and meet age requirements for YAFL participation.

“It is our hopes to show children at a young age that academics is important and sports participation should be seen as a privilege resulting from doing well in the classroom,” said Woods, who took the helm of the RHS football program a couple of months ago.

Woods said he hopes to help develop a strong feeder system for the Cardinals, something that YAFL — a program coordinated by the city’s recreation department — is instrumental in doing.

But he said promoting strong academic performance is a top priority — hence the YAFL sponsorships and their emphasis on academic work.

The coach said he hoped to expand the sponsorship initiative in future years.

Woods credited Moore “for having a huge heart, always doing so much to help the youth of our community; I can’t begin to show my appreciation” and Mark Loera for “all his help, energy and quality services that he provides for our children without much recognition.”