The Hilton Head Gators are returning to their roots.
After an extended stay in the Beaufort County Parks and Leisure Services league, the Gators youth football program is going back to the Lowcountry Youth Football League -- a league it helped found more than 30 years ago.
Hilton Head High football coach Tim Singleton, who took over as chairman of the board of directors for the Gators in July 2010, said he believes the move will provide stronger competition, but he cited scheduling as the primary reason for the change.
"The biggest reason we're doing it is because all of our teams will play on Saturdays," Singleton said. "Where one team travels, they all travel. When one plays at home, they all play at home. It's a community event. That's where we're lacking as we try to build this prideful thing called football."
In previous years under PALS, Singleton said, the three Gators teams (13-, 11- and 9-and-under) have had unique schedules that had them playing on different nights of the week as one another or at different sites on the same night. Singleton said parents with multiple kids playing football have complained that they have been forced to choose which one of their kids' games to attend.
Frank Soule, executive director of the Island Recreation Center, which has a joint partnership with the Gators' board of directors, said he supported the move because he believes having teams play at one site each Saturday will help grow the youth football program.
The Gators also will add a fourth team -- 7-and-under -- as they make the switch to the Lowcountry Youth Football League.
"This will create a sense of community around our program," Soule said. "All four teams playing together every Saturday will establish a tradition with Gators football."
Soule acknowledged the new list of opponents -- which includes teams as far as Allendale -- will increase travel for the Gators. In the PALS league, all of the Gators' opponents hailed from Beaufort County. The Gators were the only team not part of Beaufort County PALS to participate in its football league.
In the Lowcountry Youth Football League, the Gators will still play area teams from Bluffton, Ridgeland and Hardeeville, Soule said.
"We'll create some natural rivalries with teams locally," Soule said. "We're excited about that."
Registration for the Gators football program is currently open. To sign up, contact Soule at 681-7273 or visit www.islandreccenter.org.