Soul Bowl this weekend

Celebrating it’s fifth year, two inner-city youth sports leagues are taking to the field in the yearly football shootout for bragging rights, unity and friendly competition, the 2016 Blue Wahoos Soul Bowl presented by Levin-Papantonio Law Firm.

Starting at 8:00 a.m. and continuing throughout the day, young athletes from the SYSA Tigers and the A&G Rattlers will compete in football, cheerleading and team spirit. The event is a fundraiser for the two inner-city squads but also focuses on ending violence and teaching young people the value of hard work and staying in school.

Joining the two Pensacola football programs this year are teams from the Perdido Bay Buccaneers and two teams from New Orleans, expanding the Soul Bowl’s reach across the Gulf Coast area.

The Soul Bowl started more than twenty years ago as a friendly neighborhood rivalry, but has since grown into a full day of football, soul food, music and entertainment. Five years ago, organizer Lumon May and Quint Studer collaborated to move the event to the Blue Wahoos stadium at Community Maritime Park, to provide the young athletes an opportunity to compete at a world-class venue.

May said that the event is the highlight of the year for many of the young athletes who play at the waterfront park.

“This is a fun and different event that brings thousands of people to downtown Pensacola,” said May, volunteer football coach and founder of the Southern Youth Sports Association.  “We are grateful to our sponsors and thrilled to host these teams at the Blue Wahoos Stadium again. To see the excitement on the faces of these young men and women is a true reward.  Even more important is the way we can use this great event as an incentive for our athletes to make good choices, focus on school, and keep out of trouble,” said May.

The Southern Youth Sports Association has a “Four B’s” program for all of their athletes, which refers to the Bible, the Book, the Ball, and the Balance.  The program is used to encourage children to develop spiritually, work hard in school, be disciplined in their sport, and work to strike a balance in their lives between those three other elements.

Just like the new University of West Florida football team, the home field of the Blue Wahoos baseball team is transformed into a 100-yard football field for the Soul Bowl. This marks the first time that the two squads will be playing on 100 yards of turf, without the baseball diamond. Young athletes take the field from the stadium tunnels to cheers of family and friends.

But football isn’t the only fun going on at Soul Bowl. The outside of the stadium is lined with soul food vendors and community organizations. From hot dogs and burgers to ribs, barbecue, jerk chicken and all the sides and trimmings, there’s no excuse to come away from the Soul Bowl hungry for more food or more football.

This year’s Soul Bowl is sponsored by the Blue Wahoos and presented by the Levin Papantonio law firm. Other sponsors include Visit Pensacola, Gulf Power, Jim and Shirley Cronley, and Baskerville-Donovan. Media sponsors include WEAR-TV3 and WRNE 980am.

Gates open Saturday at 7:00 a.m. and the first game begins at 8:00 a.m.. Tickets are $6 in advance, and $8 at the door. The Blue Wahoos box office is open for ticket sales on Monday – Friday from 9a.m. to 5p.m.