By Dan Lovi
Signal Staff Writer
The Santa Clarita Valley takes its football seriously, as evidenced by the city’s participation at local high school games on Friday nights and at College of the Canyons games on Saturday evenings.
If you want more proof past the large crowds in the bleachers, look no further than the Gold Coast Youth Football League, or GCYFL, which houses three local youth football teams: the Santa Clarita Wildcats (a feeder program for Hart, Valencia and West Ranch high schools), the Santa Clarita Grizzlies (Canyon and Golden Valley) and the Saugus Spartans.
The GCYFL has six divisions ranging from the Mighty Mites, for players age 6-8, to the Seniors, ages 12-14. (The divisions also take into account a player’s size.)
At this year’s 14th annual Superbowl, which took place Saturday, Nov. 10 at Valencia High School, three of the six division titles were claimed by SCV teams.
The Santa Clarita Wildcats won the Mighty Mites division, beating the Fillmore Raiders 8-0 in the title game.
The Saugus Spartans won the Bantam division, for ages 8-10, by a final score of 34-0 over the Santa Clarita Grizzlies.
In the Junior division, the Santa Clarita Wildcats claimed another title, defeating the LA City Ducks Green 28-20. The Junior Wildcats have won four out of the last five championships.
“We have great coaches and great kids that go out there and do what they are asked to do every week and that’s what the makes the program so strong,” said Darren Wyre, Wildcats coach and president of the Santa Clarita Youth Sports Association, or SCYSA. “We all stand behind each other. From the Mighty Mites to the Seniors, we all support each other. All the coaches talk. Whatever we can do to help every other team win is what we try to do.”
In addition to winning the division championships, all three local youth teams finished the season with an undefeated record.
The Saugus Spartans Bantam team in particular was a force to be reckoned with, even going back to last season.
“This team is very special. We’re on an 18-game winning streak dating back to last year,” said Saugus Spartans coach Jeremy Perkins, who also serves as an athletic director for Golden Valley High School. “We’re back-to-back Superbowl champions, and this team only allowed five touchdowns all year. They are just a really great group of kids.”
The Santa Clarita teams competed in all six divisions of the annual tournament, with the Grizzlies reaching the championship game in the Freshman (ages 9-11) bracket and the Spartans reaching the title game in both the Sophomore (ages 10-12) and Senior divisions.
While one of the main goals of the youth football programs is to teach kids all aspects of the game and help them progress as athletes, more important is the mission to teach kids lessons off the field.
“That’s a huge part of my philosophy in coaching,” Perkins said. “To teach kids how to compete everyday and teach them the characteristics that are going to help out their academic life, their family life and professional life down the road. They present all the characteristics that are going to ensure success through all aspects of life. These kids are selfless, hardworking and dedicated.”
This year’s Superbowl was scheduled to be played at Royal High School in Simi Valley, but due to the Woolsey Fire, the venue had to be changed at the last-minute.
Wyre quickly got on the phone with Valencia High Principal Stephen Ford, who graciously offered his high school’s field for the youth games.
“He’s been great. He’s helped us secure fields for our playoff games and regular season games, which we’ve never had before,” Wyre said of Ford. “I made the call to Steve (on) Friday morning, and within an hour, he got back to me. He said, ‘The field is secure and it’s all yours, do what you got to do.’ He’s made it very easy for us.”
With the season over for now, the kids will focus on other sports like baseball, soccer or rugby until the new season starts up again in July.
Most kids join the organization through referral, according to Wyre, but he encourages prospective athletes to keep up-to-date with the team’s website and fill out an online interest form.
While this past season’s success on the field is a great reward for the young athletes in the programs, their coaches haven’t lost sight of what’s really important.
“Most importantly, it’s about building the kids,” Wyre said, “have good quality character kids so when they leave the program they are ready for high school.”
Interested parties can visit the Santa Clarita Wildcats team page at SCWildcats.info. For those looking to join the Saugus youth program, visit SaugusSpartans.com. The Santa Clarita Grizzlies team page can be found at SCGrizzlies.com.