During their regular meeting in the council chambers on Jan. 8, 2024, the Brooksville City Council recognized the Hernando Youth League’s 8U Football team for their strong 2023 season. Council Member Thomas Bronson, who himself played HYL and Hernando Leopards’ football, had the honor of announcing the recognition of the team for their proficiency on the field and in the classroom on Monday evening. Head Coach Mike Lastra’s youth squad showed resilience in a year that saw them lose their opening matchup before finishing their schedule 10-2.
“It was a great season with these boys,” Coach Lastra said. “It is a lot of fun. I am also the proud principal of Eastside Elementary… Coaching these kids was special […] The nice thing is we are going to keep these boys together in the Purple and Gold and you are going to hear a lot from them. So, hopefully, we will be out here every year from the future and, once they get to ten-year-old, they will be able to compete for a national championship.”
The young team was so impressive that it was not only the coach who was looking to the future. Considering their accomplishments, Mayor Blake Bell joked that the whole team should agree to play for the Hernando Leopards when they get to high school.
Following the team’s loss to start the season against Wildwood in “110-degree” heat, as the head coach noted, they showed tremendous resolve during the playoffs as well. Despite being down 21-0 at one point, the Leopards battled back in the fourth quarter and took the first-round victory. Coach Lastra and company proceeded to win ten games in a row and won the Central Florida Football Conference. The 8U team would advance all the way to the Pop Warner Southeast Regional Final Four before being upended for their second loss of the year.
“The way you battled through adversity, starting off with an ‘L,’ you learned a lot from that,” Bronson said. “The way you guys bounced back shows a lot about y’all’s character, and keeping the GPA up to play is so big. That is going to take you all so far in life. So, cherish these memories.”
Below are the names of the HYL athletes and coaches who received recognition from the city council on Monday:
“We are just so blessed to be here,” Coach Lastra said. “This is really and truly an honor. As you could tell, when you put out a message to parents about ‘hey, let’s come on out to the city council meeting’ and this many kids showed up […] That is really amazing. That really means something. Thank you.”