Though his Northside Hurricanes play their football games on Saturdays, coach Moe Evans said he gauges the success of his youth program by what he sees the night before.
Evans is also an assistant football coach at Vance High and watches some of his former youth players take the field for the Cougars and other local schools.
“I know the program is going in the right direction when we see kids on Friday nights,” said Evans, a Sunset resident. “We see a lot of kids coming through the (Northside) program excelling at the high school level.
“To hear all the success stories from our kids, that let’s me know we’re doing it for the right reasons.”
The Hurricanes are celebrating their fifth season in 2014 as a member of the Greater Charlotte American Youth Football League. Hundreds of players and cheerleaders have come through the program since its inception in 2010.
This year, the Hurricanes are fielding two flag teams (5 and 7 year olds) and five tackle teams: 6 to 7 year olds (tiny mites), 8-9 (mighty mites), 10-11 (junior pee wee), 11-12 (pee wee), and 12-13 (junior midget). In addition to age, players must also adhere to weight guidelines for each division.
Between the six football teams and two cheerleading squads, the Hurricanes serve more than 140 children. Each GCAYF association has a certain geographic area in which it concentrates. According to the GCAYF website, Northside serves “East Charlotte, Plaza Road, Eastway Drive, and East WT Harris Boulevard.”
Two other University City programs – the Derita Redskins and Mallard Creek Hokies – also field teams in the GCAYF. The Redskins play at Cheshire Field and the Hokies play at Mallard Creek High.
Northside is in its second season of playing its home games at Vance High. The Hurricanes played one season at Garinger High and one season at a couple of middle school sites.
Before founding the Northside football team, which operates under the Northside Hurricanes Youth Athletic Association, Evans coached in a Charlotte-area Pop Warner program. The Hurricanes played their first season two years after the GCAYF was founded.
GCAYF division champions advance to play in AYF regional tournaments and Northside has produced several league champions the last four years. Evans coaches the pee wee team, and in 2010 it won the AYF national championship.
Miles Corpening, now a standout junior cornerback at Vance, was a member of that championship team.
“Miles tells me every other day, ‘You haven’t won another one since,’ ” said Evans.
Another Northside alumnus starring at Vance is all-conference junior linebacker Anthony Butler, who Evans has mentored since age 6. Evans’ own son, Maurice Evans Jr., is a freshman football player at Phillip O. Berry Academy.
Playing in his third season with the Hurricanes is 13-year-old Rahmaine Bailey, who plays several positions for the junior midget team. He’s nicknamed “Foots” because of the way he impressed coaches with his kicking ability three years ago. Now he stands out as a linebacker, defensive end and tight end.
“My friend (teammate Jamon Sanders) told me this was the best team, and I thought I’d try it,” said Rahmaine. “We treat each other like a family.”
Rahmaine’s head coach, Haji Kromah, has been part of the program since 2011. Kromah’s first two teams finished as league runners-up, but last year the Hurricanes won the title and advanced to the regionals in Kernersville.
“I think this program is all about the kids,” said Kromah. “Some organizations care more about the business of how much they make at the concession stand or through admission. Here, it’s about mentoring the kids, about picking them up for practice.”
Evans, who also serves as the GCAYF president, says he is into leading the Hurricanes “for the long haul.”
“Until Maurice Jr. can take over,” said Evans. “I told him my truck comes with the program.”
The GCAYF was scheduled to begin the 2014 season Sept. 6. Northside is planning a homecoming event to honor its fifth anniversary later this season.