Football and friendship

Vikings, Broncos build bonds on the gridiron at Never Quit clinic

Seaford High School coaches and players taught youth players from the Long Island Broncos about football and community pride at the Never Quit Football Clinic on July 25.
Seaford High School coaches and players taught youth players from the Long Island Broncos about football and community pride at the Never Quit Football Clinic on July 25.
Eric Dunetz/Herald

“P! R! I! D! E!” 

Seaford High School football players spelled out a word that Coach Rob Perpall said means a lot to the Vikings and the community, yelling each letter after doing a jumping jack on the field. Youngsters from the Long Island Broncos, a youth football and cheerleading organization that has been in the community for 50 years, followed suit, raising their arms as high as they could while wearing shoulder pads and protective equipment. 

Bill Kind, the communications director for the Broncos, is an alumnus of both the youth and high school football programs. The 39-year-old said that, like hundreds of residents, the football and life lessons that he learned from his Broncos coaches were reinforced when he played at the middle school and high school. 

“We instill the same values in boys and girls at a young age that they receive in middle school and in high school: to have pride in where you are from, to always work hard and to represent yourself in the right way,” Kind said. “That’s the Seaford never quit model.” 

The Vikings hosted the 10th annual Never Quit Football Clinic for 85 Broncos players on July 25. Coaches from both organizations said that the free program is just one way in which the teams have built a relationship — and brought dozens of community members together. 

The Broncos football and cheerleading organization was established in 1966 for young people in Seaford, Wantagh and Bellmore, Kind said. Only a few football-based organizations existed in southeastern Nassau County at the time, but eventually Bellmore and Wantagh civic leaders founded their own teams, which developed relationships with football coaches at local middle and high schools.

Children as young as 5 play eight to 10 games each season, including playoffs, in the Nassau County Youth Football League. Cheerleaders compete in contests in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Perpall, who has coached the Vikings for 21 years, said he knows the value of youth organizations such as the Broncos because he was a product of the Levittown Red Devils. Because he was both a Seaford coach and a resident, Perpall decided to check out the Broncos — and offer a free clinic to the players. 

“We have a nice, small community,” he said. “When you go down to see the Bronco games on Sundays, the community is involved from early morning sometimes into the evening — it’s a terrific situation. I just want them to really feel that this is a community effort, from the time the kids start to play to the time they graduate from high school.” 

Perpall said that the strength of the youth program has contributed to the Vikings’ success. Seaford won the Nassau Conference IV football title in 2016, and, he said, the team has one of the top 10 winning percentages in Nassau County over the last decade. 

Kind, who joined the Broncos when he was 11 and graduated from the high school in 1995, said that he felt that playing on the youth team helped his transition to the Vikings. He said that the Never Quit Football Clinic allows children to get a glimpse of their future if they continue playing the sport. 

“It’s motivational for the younger athletes to be with the high school ones,” he explained. “They want to run as fast as them and hit the pads as hard as them.” 

“Those kids will be with me one day,” Perpall added. “When a 6-year-old kid who is going to ask for an 18-year-old’s chin strap at a varsity game has been taught by him over the summer, it becomes a revolving type of thing that benefits the community greatly.” 

Six Seaford coaches and 20 players participated in the clinic this year, teaching dozens of children the safe way to stand, run, tackle, block and fall. Perpall noted that, in addition to teaching methods from the USA Heads Up Football program, the teams had fun, playing Simon Says and other games. For the first time, parents were also invited onto the field to learn football terms and techniques. 

Kind said that the clinic isn’t the only time the Broncos and Vikings get together. The high school hosts an appreciation night for the group every fall, allowing football players to play a scrimmage during halftime of a varsity game and cheerleaders to join the teens on the sidelines. He said that the Broncos also participate in school events, such as Homecoming and the 9/11 memorial service. 

Perpall said that football has become an institution in Seaford. While winning helps build “Seaford Pride,” he noted that, on the youth and high school levels, players are asked to simply try to give a winning effort. 

“The rest will take care of itself,” Perpall said. “Kids might not play in the NFL, but they will be citizens and parents. We want to instill that never quit attitude.”