SHIRLEY — Down behind the Ayer Shirley Middle School sits Taylor Field: it is the home of all-things Ayer Shirley Youth Football.
The Broncos are responsible for maintaining the field in exchange for its use.
Not a bad deal, if you ask new board member Mark Pinard, who is a coach with the fifth-sixth grade Broncos team.
“It’s our Bronco pride park,” Pinard said. “It is a great facility with a shed that we transformed into a snack shack, where we also sell Ayer Shirley Broncos apparel. We keep the fields mowed and lined with some of the money we raise through the fundraisers.”
There is a completely new board in charge of Ayer Shirley Youth Football, as the previous group’s children all graduated out of the program. Pinard, along with new league president Eric Davis and the other board members have a fresh vision to keep the kids interested in the game.
Over the summer, Ayer Shirley Youth Football hosted an eight team 7-vs.-7 flag football tournament.
The league brought in about $1,000 dollars from the event.
Taylor Field is your typical run-of-the-mill youth football field with two goal posts and lines drawn every 10-yards, but if you look a little bit closer, it is actually a meeting ground for parents and players.
According to Pinard, Taylor Field is a very unique place.
“On Wednesdays after practice, we are going to start having pizza nights,” he said. “We are now one facility — before, all the cheerleaders would practice at Pirone Park. This place is jammed during the week.
“Typically, it is really busy. It is a real grass-roots program. Parents walk and jog around the complex and get their workout in. It truly is a great place. In Ayer Shirley, youth football is a social event.”
It is a learn as you go year for the fledgling Board of Directors, but they have already gained support from local business people like Kim Casto, the owner of Bodylines Pilates in Harvard and Leominster.
“She really worked the eighth grade boys hard,” Pinard said of Casto. “She volunteered her time to the team and has already offered to assist other levels of youth football and cheerleading. She i currently working with the Harvard Rowing Team as well. It was a great experience for the kids to train with a former Division 1 athlete like Kim. Kim was a standout field hockey player at the University of Connecticut.”
The pipeline of support from locals does not stop at Casto. St. Anselm College head football coach Pat Murphy, a former Ayer Bronco, returned to his old stomping grounds to run a free clinic with his assistants and some of his players. Coach Murphy went on to play fullback at Northeastern University.
“The kids really enjoyed listening to him and his staff for a change instead of us,” Pinard said. “He was kind enough to reach out to fourth grade coach Paul Marshall to organize a date for him, his assistants and players to come up to a practice. His coaching staff had resumes from the University of Florida and Colorado. He worked his way to the various age groups and broke them all up into lineman and skill players.”
Ayer Shirley Regional High School head football coach Bill Wright stops by Taylor Field at least once-per-week to check on the progress of the potential future Panthers.
“Bill Wright has been very helpful in working out with our teams,” he said. “The kids love him. Coach Wright has a way with the kids. It is beneficial for him, too. He is building that bridge between the youth program and the high school.”
Coach Murphy invited the Broncos to come up to his team’s games and watch from the sidelines. This weekend will be a busy, yet, fun one for the Broncos as it is hosting a car wash Saturday at the Gulf Station on Park St. in Ayer from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
On Sunday morning, the Ayer Shirley Broncos are renting out the movie theater at Cinema World on John Fitch Hwy. in Fitchburg to watch newly released film “When the Game Stands Tall.”
The movie is about a Calif. high school football team who won an unprecedented 151-consecutive games.
“These kids have really bonded in the last four years — they know the ropes,” Pinard said. “We want to build relationships with the kids and parents in the program. The car wash is a great way for the kids and parents to have a good time and raise money for the program.”