History of the Pinellas Park Thunderbirds

 

The Pinellas Park Thunderbirds 50 golden years....

 

This journey was started by Charlie Barnes, Pete Peterson and Harry Suddith to name a few. They had the vision of bringing a youth football program to the City of Pinellas Park and that vision along with many volunteers along the way have brought us 50 years later to the awesome program we have today.

 

The first president was Julian Mason. From 1961-1967 the Thunderbirds made their affiliation with Pop Warner. In 1967, Pinellas Youth Football Conference (PYFC) was formed by 6 cities and the T-Birds joined this conference for the next 30 years. The league was known as Pinellas Park Midget Football Association, Inc. but changed it’s name in 1964 to Pinellas Park Midget Football Parents Assoc. The league was comprised of 2 football teams with approximately 60 boys and 2 cheer teams with approximately 13 girls. By the late 60's the league added a mighty might division and 2 JV teams which brought the total of players 176 boys. The league travelled at the end of season to Georgia, New Jersey and New York to play other leagues in bowl games as well as local trips to Coral Gables.

 

Past presidents of the 60's were Julian Mason, Don Schrecongost and Olen Stonerook.

 

During the 1970's the City of Pinellas Park began construction on the field as well as building a club house for the league. By 1974 the clubhouse was finished. The 1970's proved to be a very busy time for the Thunderbirds. Teams expanded very quickly giving us varsity and jv teams for mighty mites, pee wee’s and midgets. Some teams were known as the Blue Boomers, Redskins, Buccaneers, White Knights and Orange Tigers. Cheerleading was expanding as well and a drill team and pep squad were added to the program. A booster club was even formed.

 

By the end of the 1970's the number of players and cheerleaders grew to 226 in boys and 124 in girls.

 

In 1978, head coach Dale Going brought the first football team to a championship game. Even though the Varsity Might Mites did not win the championship game, they made T-Bird history. Coach Going and his staff did not stop there, in 1979, he produced another championship team. His Varsity Pee Wee team made it to the championship game as well but were unable to take the win home.

 

In 1979 produced the first cheerleading competition winners. The mighty mite’s came in 1st, pee wee’s placed first and midgets placed 3rd.

 

There were many coaches joining the organization and some spent many years with the T-Birds during the 70's. Some of the names of these coaches are Frank Canzoneri, Don Brockmire, Ed Baust, Don Mansell, Zonnie Gilbert, Earl Chancey, Dale Going and Ron Forbes. Who would have known that player #46 (James Adams) on the Jr. Midget team in 1976 would go on to coach high school football at Pinellas Park High School and later end up president of the organization in 2009 and 2010.

 

Sponsors quickly came in during the 1970's to help support the growing league and their financial obligations. A few of those sponsors were Hottin Trophies, Sunshine bowling, Pinellas Park Volunteer Fire Department, Miller Meats, Spanish American Market, Dreamland Waterbeds and Smalley’s Restaurant.

 

Past presidents of the 1970's were Ron Forbes, Duane Drawdy, Ken Smith.

 

In 1980 the league’s name changed to Pinellas Park Youth Sports Association.

 

The Mighty Mites and Pee Wees came in first place at the 1980 conference cheer competition.

 

Our first women president was Barbara Ruffo in 1981.

 

In 1981 the Pee Wee cheer squad came in 3rd at the conference competition.

 

Cecil Bradbury was mayor during the entire decade and supported the league at many of the games and T-Bird events.

 

JV football teams were considered taxi teams and no standings were kept or champions crowned. The weight divisions were as follows: FW 50-70lbs, MM 60-91lbs, PW 76-111 lbs, and Midgets 86-131 lbs.

 

Football was in full force during the 1980's with seasoned coaches dedicating their time to the well known football program at Davis Field. Coaches who spent many years during this time were Roy Vanderveer, Bob Merritt, Don Adams, Mike Goulding, Tom Applegate, Clayton Boykin, Sam Salone, Jr., Ralph Whittmeyer, Dave Hartner, Rick Marcel, Jim Merritt, Don Brockmeier, Frank Canzoneri, and Don Vaughn.

 

Those who remembered the field in the early years will remember the huge power pole that was in the middle of the sideline area which obstructed the view of spectators and the press box. In 1983, Florida Power came and removed that pole giving the wonderful view we have today.

 

1984 proved historical in football as head coach Dave Wiliford lead our Varsity Pee Wee team to the playoffs and brought home our first conference championship. This game was so intense that the winning points were actually made by a field goal.

 

Who would have know the kicker of that winning field goal, Scott Vanderveer would later go on and coach many years at the T-Birds, bringing his own teams to the play offs and a championship game.

 

The Varsity Pee Wee team continued to excel by making it to the playoffs as well as the Varsity Mighty Mites in 1985. Our 1985 cheer squads that placed at competition were mighty mites in 3rd place and pee wees in 2nd place.

 

The 1986 Varsity Midget football team, coached by Mike Goulding ended with a 7- 1-2 season and even though the conference did not acknowledge championships for a taxi (J.V.) team, the J.V. Pee Wee team ended with a amazing record of 8-2-1 record winning the conference championship game for taxi teams.

 

In 1986, five of our cheer teams placed at the conference competition. They were Varsity Pee Wee in 1st place, J.V. Flyweight in 1st place, J.V. Mighty Mite in 3rd place, J.V. Pee Wee in 2nd place and J.V. Midgets in 2nd place.

 

Coach Goulding continued to drive his Varsity Midget team with success. In 1988 they not only made it to the playoff’s but they ended up beating Clearwater in the championship. This became history for the midget division.

 

Cheerleading continued to progress each year with more teams bringing home many first, second and third place trophies at competition. By the end of the 1980's more than half of the cheer teams were placing at competition each year and this was obviously the beginning of the cheerleading legacy held to this day at the Pinellas Park T-Birds.

 In 1987 J.V. Flyweights placed 3rd, J.V. Mighty Mites placed second, J.V. Pee Wee’s placed third and J.V. Midgets placed first.

 

Who knew that the Midget Homecoming Queen of 1983, Kris Addison (Klinesmith), would later coach her own cheer teams, join the board, and after over 20 years as a volunteer become president of the 2011 season.

 T-birds would celebrate their wins and accomplishments with bon fires and skating parties at Skate Key or Southland Roller Palace. After games most players, cheerleaders and parents would be found at Joto‘s pizza celebrating the wins of the day.

 Lets not forget that the T-Birds had their own team physicians. Thomas Mathias, D.O. and Dr. Strubbe volunteered many hours to the t-birds performing physicals for the players and cheerleaders.

 1980's proved to be an emotional time for the T-Birds as they endured the loss of their beloved cheerleading coordinator, Alma Goodman and dedicated the 1984 season in her memory.

 

Another loss suffered was that of former player, 15 year old, Billy Ott. Billy’s mother, Maureen and his former players joined together to honor his memory by dedicating a lighted memorial in his name.

 

And finally 1987 was dedicated to the memory of former coach, Paul J. DeRosa.

 

Sponsors of the 1980's were Joto’s Pizza, Zayre, Foxy Lady’s, Southland Roller Palace, Boulevard Fashions, Wain Roberts, Gulf Shore, Sunshine Speedway, Big Daddy’s Amusement Center, Fiegel Signs, Hamburger Castle, Show Biz Pizza, Osgood Cloud, Metropolitan General Hospital, Colonial Corner, Pinellas Park News and Allen’s Sport Store.

 Past presidents of the 1980's were Jim Drescher, Barbara Ruffo, Zonnie Gilbert, Alan Waldauer, Dave Hartner, and Dorthy Gilbert.

 

The 1990's started off with a bang as head coach Bob Klinesmith lead his JV Pee Wee football team also known as the "Wrecking Crew" to the playoff’s and brought home and a championship trophy. The team went against the St. Pete Little Devils and ended the season with an 11-1-1 record.

 

1991 was no different when head coach, Mike Delancy lead his Varsity Flyweight team to the playoffs and a championship ending their season with a 12-0 season. That same year, head coach, Luke Kademoff showed that the J.V. program was continuing to stay strong as he brought his J.V. Midget team to the playoff’s and also won a championship.

 

1991’s season was dedicated in memory of Charlie Barnes, one of the founders to the program.

 

The championship power did not end there. Head coach Mike Delancy took his next team, the 1992 Varsity Mighty Mites to victory with a championship. They ended their season with a 12-1 record.

 

Once again the J.V. Midget’s, this time led by Head Coach, Lloyd Curtis made it to the playoffs and brought yet another championship home for the T-Birds in 1992.

 

In 1995, the Varsity Midgets’ coach, Bob Klinesmith took his team into the championship game but lost to Greenwood.

 

The 1997 Varsity Pee Wee team, under coach Mike Delancy also made it to the championship game but lost to St. Pete.

 

The cheerleading program was in no way falling behind as the girls worked hard entertaining their fans with awesome performances on Homecoming night. They would spend weeks working on props and costumes.

 

The 1990's proved to be a rough time within the conference. By the mid 1990's the T-Birds left the PYFC to play in Tampa however came back to the conference a year later.

 

Coaches who spent many years coaching in the 1990's were Bob Klinesmith, Mike Delancy, Scott Vanderveer, Rick Sakow and Luke Kademoff.

 

Past presidents of the 1990's were Bonney Moore, Steve Nardi, Mike Delancy and Alan Perry.

 

Year 2000 not only brought in the new millennium but a new era for the Thunderbirds.

 

The Thunderbirds continued with many traditions as well as making a few new ones which is how the annual Homecoming dance began. To this day, the children reserve tickets for a night of dinner and dance. They dress to impress and watch as the King and Queen are crowned.

 

Family Night became the most meaningful tradition as all the families within the organization come together for a night of dinner and entertainment. The event starts off with everyone donating can goods which are donated to local food pantries or toys that are donated to families within our organization who need help at Christmas time. A free dinner is then served as everyone gives grace to family time and then the night is ended with fabulous performances from the cheerleading teams who show off their first place competition routines.

 

In 2001 Head Coach, Scott Vanderveer proved that the midget division was still a force at the T-Birds making it to the championship game. Unfortunately they could not get the win and lost to Clearwater.

 

 In 2002, head coach, Bob Klinesmith took his Varsity Flyweight team to the play off’s and lost the championship game to Clearwater.

 

Head Coach Mike Delancy tried once again as he led the 2004 varsity midgets to a championship game, however Dunedin took the victory.

 

2005 was no different. Head coach, Bob Klinesmith was able to bring yet another team to the championship game, however, his Varsity Pee Wee team lost to Clearwater.

 

Jerry Mullins a long time sponsor and supporter of the T-Birds started hosting an annual car show to benefit the Thunderbirds. Each year the funds were used to help purchase items needed at the field. This is how our league received their very own golf cart.

 

The Thunderbirds joined the Suncoast Youth Football Conference (SYFC) where we remain today.

 

With a growing program to over 700 children, the T-Birds needed more room to store equipment and uniforms. With fund-raising and donations, the T-Birds were able to add on to the existing building so to give our cheer program their own storage area, the concession stand was remodelled and building painted with a picture of the bad bird placed on the building.

 2009 became a very emotional year after losing cheer coach Lou Ann Greene and football coach Andy Dorsey.

 

In 2010 The T-Birds started their first annual Coach Of The Year award to recognize an outstanding football and cheerleading coach. This was to honor the memory of Coach Lou Ann and Coach Andy.

 

To kick off the 2011 anniversary celebration, the T-Birds introduced their very own live mascot named Bad Bird and who’s jersey number is 61 signifying the beginning of our history.

 

With help from Jerry Mullins and his annual car show, the Thunderbirds were able to bring the light back to the Bill Ott memorial. This commitment of the organization proved that preserving the history of our league was just as important as dedicating to the growth of the future.

 

The cheerleading program became one of the best known cheer programs in Pinellas County. Year after year all of our cheer teams would take home first through third place trophies, some years having almost all first places. Our cheer teams would travel to outside competitions only to prove once again the T-Birds were #1. Amazingly this program continues to be a force of excellent coaches who have made the T-Birds name known across many counties.

 

Past presidents of 2000's were Mike Abbott, Tim Lee, Tony Montana, James Adams and Kris Klinesmith.

 

The following were the Varsity Cheering accomplishments within the SYFC to date it should be noted that there were many J.V. teams that placed during this time, however their wins are not recorded within the conference.

  •  2002- VFW 1st Place
  •  2003-VMM 1st Place
  •  2004- VMM 1st Place
  •  2005- VMM 1st Place
  •  2006-VFW 1st Place, VMM 1st Place, V Midgets 1st Place
  •  2007- VFW 1st Place, VMM 1st Place, VPW 1st Place
  •  2008- VFW 1st Place, VMM 1st Place
  •  2009- VFW 1st Place, VMM 1st Place, V Midgets 1st Place
  •  2010- VFW 1st Place, VPW 1st Place, V Midgets 1st Place