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Warriors embrace their tradition

Posted: August 8, 2013 9:20 p.m.
Updated: August 8, 2013 9:20 p.m.

Assistant coach Chris Mangarin huddles with his team of pee wee Warrior Blackhawks at Heritage Park in Valencia on Tuesday.

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The oldest youth football program in the Santa Clarita Valley, the Santa Clarita Valley Athletic Association Warriors, is entering its 47th year of existence.

And despite more competition than ever in the valley, the Warriors program continues to strive.

This year, the program will feature 16 teams and about 350 kids, according to Warriors President Michael Smith.

Those numbers make the Warriors the largest program in the Pacific Youth Football League, which features 19 teams total and two in the Santa Clarita Valley in the Warriors and Canyon Country Outlaws.

How are the Warriors able to maintain such high participation numbers while other local teams have far less?

“To tell you the truth, it’s our board. The volunteers in our organization are selfless,” Smith said. “Everybody puts in so much time and effort into making this thing run.”

Because the Warriors are on of just two PYFL teams in the valley, their athletic boundaries are fairly large, meaning kids from Saugus, Newhall, Valencia, Castaic and Stevenson Ranch can all find their way into a Warriors uniform.

“We feed kids into all those areas,” Smith said. “We have good relationships with all those coaches, we have coaching clinics and we invite the head coaches to come and speak to our coaches and it’s been great. (Hart head coach Mike) Herrington and (Valencia head coach Larry) Muir both came and talked to our coaches. We really stress coaching up our coaches. The more our coaches know, the better our kids become.”

To that end, Smith also preaches the importance of teaching safety — particularly with the emphasis on concussion safety permeating through all levels of the game.

The Warriors are a member of the National Football League’s ‘Heads Up Tackle’ program, which is a partnership with USA Football.

“I know some people have seen their numbers have dropped off,” Smith said. “Ours remained the same and are actually growing a little bit, and a lot of that has to do with education.”

But what really sets the Warriors apart in a developmental sense is their willingness to adapt to what local high school coaches are running.

“What we try and do as much as possible, we know Valencia runs a lot of pistol, they run the spread — a lot of teams run spread. Hart, Saugus and Valencia, they all run some form of option. They run some kind of outside zone, so we teach those techniques. We teach zone blocking, read zone. These kids are pretty well prepared. I think (high school coaches) like that. They come and talk about their offense, they don’t give a lot of their secrets. They try and hide them and it’s pretty funny when they do. But it helps and some of the coaches will come out and watch a game or so and they’ll see we’re running what they’re running.”

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