It happened two years ago, but J.C. Martin, president of the South York Boys Club, still feels the sting of being stabbed in the back by people he knew and trusted.

For almost 50 years, the South York midget football program served as the feeder system for the York High football team.

Starting with the 7- and 8-year-old boys on the Rink team, moving up to the 9- and 10-year-olds on the Pony team and finally the 11- and 12-year-olds playing on the Midget team, York City youth learned the fundamentals of football by playing in the South York program.

Andre Powell and Tisen Thomas, for example, played for South York, were stars at York High, and they later went on to play football for Joe Paterno at Penn State.

Brad Carr played for the University of Maryland and was drafted in 1978 by the Pittsburgh Steelers, years after he starred for the South York Midgets. He also played in the Canadian Football League.

Other familiar alumni of the South York program are: Emneko Sweeney, Katrell Barnes and Ali Johnson.

No doubt about it, the South York program produced its share of dominant players over the years.

"Then out of the blue," Martin said, "a group of former coaches decided to start their own team and recruited all of our players to play for them. We knew nothing about it until it was time for registration and only three boys showed up."

Martin didn't mind the coaches wanting to start their own team, he just didn't like the way they went about it.

"The boys were told there was not going to be a South York team, and if they wanted to play football they needed to sign up with the new team," he said.

And that's what happened.

Martin and the remaining leadership in the South York team were stunned. They'd been in the York County Midget Football League since 1963, had won league championships, had produced some of the best high school and college players to come out of York County.

And all of a sudden they didn't have enough kids to field a team. In fact, they didn't have enough kids to field any of the three teams they sponsored.

"They (the defecting coaches) said they weren't trying to shut us down, but they said they'd like for us to be a feeder program for their new team," Martin said. "I'm not going to lie to you, that hurt a lot."

So one of the jewels of the York County Midget Football League -- York Boys Club, Dallastown, Northeastern, West York, Tri-Town, Yorktown and EYC are the other teams -- was suddenly unable to sign up enough players to put a team on the field.

"We're still members of the league, but we haven't played a game in two seasons," Martin said.

But he's hoping to change all that for the 2013 season. The first order of business was to name a head coach. Darren Moore got the job.

"Our aim is to register 75 boys between now and the middle of summer," Moore said. "We used to have more than 100 boys in the program, but we're looking to have 25 boys, at least, on each of the three age-group teams."

And, Moore said, his goal is to sign up 15 to 20 girls between the ages of 7 and 12 for the cheerleading squad.

"We've been around for about 50 years, I guess, but in a lot of ways it feels like we're starting from scratch," Moore said.

It feels that way, I guess, because that's pretty much the case.

When your players have been recruited away by another team, you haven't had enough players to field a team and haven't played a game in two years, for all intents and purposes you are starting from ground zero.

And to make matters more difficult, football is an expensive sport. Especially when you're trying to do it without the help of a sponsor.

Helmets cost $110 each. Game uniforms are another $100 each or more if you count shoulder pads at $30 a kid. Insurance is $800 a year. Referees cost $200 per game. Portable potties cost $600 a season. EMTs are $75 per each home game.

It's an uphill climb. Martin and Moore are fully aware of that.

Where once they were champions of the midget league, now they find themselves beating the bushes for players and enough money to make ends meet.

Last season, Martin paid $250 to the league out of his own pocket to keep South York registered. And the team never played a game.

He hopes that won't happen again.

"We need help. We're asking for help. We need adults willing to get involved, to run concession stands, to serve on the board of directors, to be coaches," Martin said.

And times-a-wasting.

Anyone interested in getting involved with the South York football program in any capacity is asked to contact Martin at (717) 843-2640 or Moore at (717) 542-9148.

Sports columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Thurs days. E-mail: lhick