NEW PALESTINE — Like a papa bear watching over his precious cubs, Kyle Ralph stood near the sidelines of the New Palestine Cadet Football League fields and cast his protective gaze over area youngsters learning basic football skills.

He knows one day, in the not too distant future, the youths will feed into his New Palestine High School football program.

Ralph, head coach of the Dragons, said the sooner area youngsters learn the basics of the game, the better they’ll be when he’s their coach at the prep level.

“This is a ‘football is coming soon’ type of day,” Ralph said. “We want to get them active and moving and start getting football back in their brains again.”

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The New Palestine Cadet Football League conducted a fundamental, one-day camp for boys and girls ages 5 through 12 Sunday afternoon. Ralph, his coaches and players worked the camp showing the youngsters how to play football, the Dragon way. The refresher lays the ground work for the NPCFL summer camp coming up in a few weeks.

Ralph knows the youth league is the Dragons lifeline to putting a quality team on the field each fall.

The league has been running strong for more than 15 years and even on a random afternoon in the middle of summer, it was packed with players eager to learn the game.

While many youngsters are on vacation and playing in baseball and softball tournaments in the summertime, the one-day camp attracted nearly 100 area players.

Ralph’s high school players, who are part of the school’s Leadership Council, along with many of his coaching staff members, ran the players through non-player contact drills.

The youngsters got to tackle padded dummies, learn how to carry a football properly and even the simple things surrounding football, like how to take the proper stance on the field.

“It’s all fundamental stuff,” Ralph said. “We just wanted to get the kids back out there, and really the NPCFL as a whole is all about fundamentals and learning the game.”

The camp also gave Ralph’s players a chance to give back to a league they played in.

“That is incredibly important,” Ralph said. “We talk to our varsity guys coming back and remind them they were little too, and it’s important for them to give their time to others and our guys take a lot of pride in that.”

C.J. Faubion, junior defensive back, was one of the Dragon players helping out. For Faubion, being part of the camp was something he was actually looking forward to.

“Oh, I love it,” he said between drills. “I really get a kick out of it, interacting with kids and making sure they have fun.”

Brody Meyer, a fourth-grader at Sugar Creek Elementary School, was one of the youngsters having a good time.

“Just imagine this is a giant Krispy Kreme doughnut and go after it,” one of the coaches said, as the players lined up to do some tackling with the round, rolling, red tackling pad.

Brody couldn’t wait to get back in line after taking the doughnut down once.

“I liked hitting it,” he said with a smile.

Diana Moore of New Palestine has been letting her sons play football in the league for years. She likes the fact her youngest, Christopher Moore, a fourth-grader at Sugar Creek Elementary, got to hang out with his friends and learn fundamental football skills.

“The kids are always learning something new at a camp like this,” she said. “The coaches are really special making sure each one of the kids is needed and worth it.”

Ralph’s staff and players will also coach the NPCFL camp coming up in a few weeks.

For more details, dates, times and cost, visit npcfl.org or email thenpcfl@gmail.com. Registration to play in the NPCFL is open until July 7 for grades first through sixth. Kindergarten registration is open until July 21.

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Kristy Deer is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3262 or kdeer@greenfieldreporter.com.