By Betsy Scheinbart
The Rosedale Jets youth football organization Saturday celebrated its 40th anniversary and its first homecoming in recent history with four games complete with half-time shows, cheerleaders, a DJ and a full concession stand in Brookville Park.
Although the older boys were upset when they lost their game to neighborhood rival Springfield Rifles, the day was still a good one for the Jets, as parents and coaches stressed how important the growing team has been for children and teens in southeast Queens.
“That’s about 250 young people doing something productive with their lives,” Jets team announcer Gerald Karikari said of the Jets, Rifles, and cheerleaders for both teams.
“I don’t think there are too many other programs with such great black male role models,” Karikari said of the Jets’ coaches.
The organization for 6- to 13-year-old boys was formed in 1961 and expanded to several teams in the 1970s and 1980s until interest waned in the 1990s, shrinking to only one team, said the group’s president, Jacques Leandre.
Leandre was one of the new coaches who took over the team’s management in the past decade and helped it grow into four divisions: Peanuts, Junior Pee-wee, Pee-wee and Midgets. They are in the Warner football conference.
Parents of the boys on the teams stay involved with the organization and wear Rosedale Jets sweatshirts sporting the slogan “Parents That Care.” Many of the fathers are coaches, and many mothers are “Team Moms” who help out with the concession stand or coach the cheerleaders.
The Jettas Cheerleaders expanded this year, growing from eight girls last year to 15 this year, under the guidance of head coach Jackie Franklin and her assistant coach, Chichi Mahamah.
“My son was playing and his sister was always around, so we thought, ‘Let’s get the girls together,’” Franklin said.
Both women have daughters, Bianca and Teresa, on the cheer leading team and sons, Emanuel and Bebe, on the football teams.
“Most of them are flexible,” Bianca Franklin said of the cheerleaders, “and you get to be loud.”
While the Jets Pee-Wee team was trailing the Brooklyn Skyhawks at the half and their spirits were down, the Jettas lightened the mood with a dance performance during half-time.
The Jettas got some help from Kek.Da Children’s Dance Ensemble, based out of the ESOTA school of arts on Merrick Boulevard in Laurelton.
The dance group, founded by Kerri Edge, now 27, of Springfield Gardens in 1993, offers a variety of styles including tap, also known as hoofing, modern, ballet, jazz, hip-hop, African and musical theater.
David Aiken, 17, of Rosedale, the choreographer of the dances, enthusiastically led the group through the long routine as contemporary hip-hop dance music blasted through the field’s speakers.
About an hour later, when the team took to the field to meet the Springfield Rifles, head coach Al Davis was fired up.
“This is a must-win against the No. 1 team, our home-town rival,” Davis said of the Rifles. “Our kids go to the same schools, they wear their jerseys to school, they have a little rivalry.”
The Rifles play at Roy Wilkins Park, just a few miles away from Brookville Park.
The Jets started out the game with an exciting pass from Tyrell Coon, 13, to Kenan Brogdon, 13, who sped down the sideline for the first-quarter touchdown.
“I felt like it was supposed to happen,” Kenan said.
But the Rifles, which are part of a much larger organization and have a slightly better record than the Jets, came back with three of their own touchdowns, winning the game 20 to 8.
“I feel bad because we could have done better,” Tyrell said after the game.
Although the boys lost, Leandre remained optimistic about the Jets as a growing organization, which has a good relationship with their neighborhood rival.
“Although we did not win, overall it was a positive day,” he said.
Reach reporter Betsy Scheinbart by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300 Ext. 138.