The Xenith Live Your Game Spotlight is a content feature covering the great schools and football programs across the country, taking an in-depth look at how teams from different regions train, play, and live their game.
JOLIET, IL – Hell or high water, Francisco Bermudez was determined to have his program play football this year despite the on-going COVID-19 pandemic and state restrictions. Bermudez is the President of the Joliet Ravens Youth Football and Cheer program out of Illinois and he oversees teams from 6U all the way through 13U/8th Grade.
While Bermudez will enter his 11th year running the program in 2021, the year 2020, like most football seasons around the country, looked a lot different than previous years.
“We had a great season,” said Bermudez, “We traveled out of state every weekend for games, the kids had fun, a lot of family building time with the kids, the players and the parents.”
Bermudez was open with how determined he was to play a football season this year. “I was definitely committed to getting a season in even though Illinois was shut down.” He gives a ton of credit to the parents within his organization. “Our parents were committed like they’ve always been. They were supportive of what I wanted to do and what their kids wanted to do so it’s been a good season.”
While the 2020 season ended well, the beginning of the season was clouded with uncertainty due the pandemic and Illinois state guidelines. “We started a little late, concerned whether we were going to actually have a practice facility or not. There were some restrictions on whether the park district would allow us to practice or not.” That obstacle was thankfully cleared as the park district approved of the Ravens practicing, seeing it as a benefit for children who spent most of their days inside with the schools shut down. “Every day we had kids come up to a drive-up line, they had temperatures taken, they got hand sanitized, marked off, sent to practice and the parents weren’t allowed out the cars.”
Couple these heavily regulated practices with the traveling the program was doing and the 2020 Ravens season was a whole new adventure for kids, parents, and coaches alike. “It was definitely a different look,” explained Bermudez. “Every week we were renting fields across the border in Indiana, Wisconsin, just getting games in so it was a bigger expense to the organization…and to the parents who were staying in hotels every other to every weekend.”
The commitment from the coaches and parents was well worth it, however, as the players from their teams loved traveling to play games, feeling like they were given the collegiate or even NFL treatment. “I really liked it,” said Chris Domagalski, a player in the Ravens program. “We played twice as many games and were moving all around the state.”
The players reminisced very fondly of the season and said they had a lot of fun in the hotels, and even mingling with the other teams also in town to play football. Overall, it was a great season and experience for everyone involved. Coach Bermudez, an ex-Division One athlete himself, puts an emphasis on hard work and commitment to one’s goals, so it is no wonder once he set his mind to providing a traveling season to his Ravens, he was able to deliver.
The Joliet Ravens serve as a feeder school to Joliet Catholic High School in addition to Joliet West High School which are considered two of the leading high school programs in Illinois.
Xenith is proud to have Coach Bermudez and Joliet Ravens as a member of the family and wish them all the best in the seasons ahead.