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Mad about Football

Lawyers, construction workers, and businessmen by day turn into football players at night

Posted: August 5, 2008 9:17 p.m.
Updated: October 7, 2008 5:02 a.m.

The Santa Clarita Maddogs are a group of local semipro football players in the LaBelle Community Football League West. They play at high schools around the Santa Clarita Valley. The team's first game this season was June 14.

During the day, Valencia attorney Bradley Tyer protects the justice system; at night, however, he protects his quarterback while toiling on the offensive line for his LaBelle Community Football league West club, the Santa Clarita Maddogs.

The organization was named after Patti LaBelle, a famous pop singer who recorded hit songs from the 1960s through today, who lended her name and sponsorship to the league.

Other occupations engaged in by these part-time gridiron stars include construction workers, lighting specialists and contractors.

On Aug. 16, the 51-man roster will be locked in. "Guys can join our team until then," said owner Tyer. "Ninety percent of our squad played for College of the Canyons, Canyon Country, West Ranch, areas like that."

"I saw an ad for tryouts and I made the team," Tyer added. "Soon I realized it had a lot going for it. But in a sense of getting sponsors, it needed assistance. I said I'd like to be involved with it any way I can. I decided later on I'd own it."

Tyer, an offensive lineman, has owned the Maddogs the past two seasons. Shane Sawitz, the former owner, is also a lineman. He also owns his own lighting company.

Besides a business opportunity, there were other reasons to get involved with the sport. "I used it to jumpstart my diet," said Jon Tapia, whose father Joe coached Saugus High football from 1993 to 2002.

"Everyone wants me to put on 25 pounds and go back on the line."

Tapia, a former four-year starter at center, works as a construction worker with Warner Brothers in Burbank.

Center Steve Lopez is a returning player who last year was named as a Minor League Football News First Team All-American. The best defensive player is middle linebacker Brandon Fuselier, who played on a College of the Canyons football team that won a national championship.

This is the first season that the Maddogs have joined the LCFL, which is part of the National American Football League. Between 500 and 600 teams are in the league. The first-ever national championship is in October and will be played at the Home Depot Center in Carson.

The team has an operating budget of $10,000, for uniforms, fields, lights, travel costs, sponsorships and other expenses. The players, most of whom are in their 20s, are not paid. They must be at least 18 years old in order to play.

"The reason for that is two-fold," Tyer said. "One is we don't make enough money yet as a team to pay salaries. The second is we have plenty of players on our team who would lose college eligibility if they were paid anything."

Santa Clarita practices from 8 to 10 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Central Park. It plays its home games at Canyon High School and in Palmdale.

The season began on June 14 and runs until Sept. 20.

Felix Flores, who was a defensive coordinator on the Maddogs last season, is now the team's head coach. He used to coach the LCFL club in West Hollywood a few years ago.

"Our goal for this season is to at least make it to the playoffs and go on from there," Flores said. "Our strength is our defense. It has basically kept us in ballgames."

The Maddogs next game will be against Bakersfield on the road. Its next "home" game will take place on Aug. 16 at versus the South Bay Skulls. The site is yet to be determined, but it should be at one of the high schools in the Hart District or Antelope Valley.

The club defeated Central Coast 12-0, but lost 41-0 to San Luis Obispo and 28-18 to the West Coast Sharks based out of Calabasas.

The team's quarterback is Greg Hoffman and its leading receivers are C.J. Manifield and Mike Batando.

Santa Clarita practices from 8 to 10 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Central Park. It plays its home games at Canyon High and in Palmdale. The season began on June 14 and runs through Sept. 20.

"We'll definitely fulfill our potential this year," Lopez said. "We're already facing tougher competition than last year. Guys are a little bit bigger. Before, you had guys that didn't play football before, at least three or four per team. Now you don't really see that any more."

What they do for a Living:

Several Santa Clarita Maddogs do some interesting things for a job.

Brad Tyer, owner/lineman, attorney, estate planning and business
Steve Lopez, center, construction
Shane Sawitz, owns lighting tech company
Jon Tapia, linebacker, construction worker, Warner Bros.
Omar Duran, offensive lineman, production planner, aerospace company
Felix Flores, head coach, production supervisor, Coca-Cola


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