As Crescenta Valley High School football prepares for its first scrimmage of the season today, La Cañada Gladiators weighed in for the fall season as well. Here’s a primer on how the Gladiators work.
By Ashley FILIPEK
On Saturday, several divisions of the La Cañada Gladiator football team traveled to Pico Rivera for the certification process for the upcoming season. While they need to provide documents that prove their age, identity, and grades, the bigger assessment for the day is a weigh-in.
Each team – Junior Gremlin, Gremlin, Junior Pee Wee, Pee Wee, Junior Midget, and Midget – has its own qualifications for both age and weight. For example, a Midget football player needs to be between the ages of 12 and 14 and weigh between 90 lbs and 180 lbs. If the weight requirement is not met, a player will not be eligible to play in the games. Similarly, the players are weighed at the start of each game, and if they do not meet the requirements (which during the season allow them to gain two pounds per month) then they have to sit out of the game.
On Saturday, most of the boys, and their accompanying parents, seemed to be pretty relaxed about the whole process and ready for a day spent in the hot sun to be over. There were a handful of boys who were making sure to eat as much as they could to ensure that they met the minimum weight requirement. Despite the true pressure of the day, most of the attendees shrugged it off and were just excited to start the new season of Gladiator football.
The Gladiator organization is open to all children between the ages of 6 and 14 who reside in La Cañada or parts of La Crescenta, Pasadena, Altadena, Tujunga, Verdugo City and Montrose. Placement on a particular team is decided upon by a combination of age and weight.
“The goal is to have children participating in a division with others of a similar size and age. In addition, each participant is required to maintain a ‘C’ average in school,” said Kevin Lacey, president of the La Cañada Gladiators. “If a participant’s GPA dips below this level during the season, he or she will be expelled from the program, which is a very rare occurrence in La Cañada. Grades are reviewed by the executive board of the San Gabriel Valley Jr. All American Football Conference in August prior to the beginning of the season, and again in October.”
Each year the Gladiators organize six teams. Junior Gremlin is the only flag team, and Gremlin, Junior Pee Wee, Pee Wee, Junior Midget and Midget are all tackle teams. The size of each team is determined by the conference, which has decided that organizations are allowed no more than 20 on a flag team and no more than 33 on each tackle team.
While other franchises routinely cut players, the Gladiator executive board made a decision several years ago to avoid this as there is something viscerally offensive about telling a child enrolled in youth sports that he isn’t good enough to make the team,” said Lacey. “The Gladiators, as a matter of policy, believe that children who come out, make an effort, and want to play should be allowed to do so and should not be concerned with being ‘cut.’”
Because of this, all Gladiator tackle rosters have a maximum of 35 players rather than the allowed 40. If any of the first 33 children drop out for whatever reason, then a child is moved off the waiting list to fill the vacancy. Currently, none of the tackle rosters have 33 participants.
The season starts the weekend of Sept. 15, and throughout the season each team will play a minimum of eight games and a maximum of 10. The conference divides each franchise into four leagues of five to six teams each. La Cañada is part of the Arroyo League, which includes Pasadena, Rosemead, Arcadia, Temple City, Duarte and Glendale. At the end of the first seven games, the top two teams in each league go to the playoffs and the eighth game counts as the first round of playoffs. There are three rounds of the playoffs: The quarter-finals, semi-finals and the championship game. If a team doesn’t make the playoffs, the eighth game is played as a Friendship Bowl in which the team plays another team from a different league that also didn’t make the playoffs.
The conference places a premium on academics and sportsmanship.
“In the mid-1960s, Junior All American Football was formed by adults from several Pop Warner franchises who believed that good sportsmanship and academic excellence should take precedence over excellence on the football field,” Lacey explained. In 2011, the Gladiator’s Pee Wee team finished the season with the highest overall GPA in conference among the other 28 teams, and was awarded the Gordon Stuart Scholarship Award. Routinely, at least one Gladiator team receives this award each year.
Over the last nine years, the Gladiators have won 16 league championships, and six conference championships. This is an extraordinary record considering that it is the smallest franchise in conference with a recruiting area that is dwarfed by their competition.
“We attribute this to the hard work of our players,” said Lacey, “and the fact that we have been blessed with very dedicated and skilled coaches.”