The goal of Murrieta’s Friday Night Lights Flag Football league is simple — provide youth with the best sporting experience possible.
The league’s commissioner and director Mike Vaez is out to make that happen.
“After seeing the league double in size within a year, we are on our way to expanding fully into Temecula. Our Tournament of Champions event was a tremendous success, with three teams reaching the finals, and two coming away as winners,” Vaez said.
The five-hour tournament was held at Los Alamos Sports Park in Murrieta. First grade (Freshman) and second grade (Sophomore) teams played four games each.
“Our Notre Dame Fighting Irish team (first graders) won 25 straight games, and won (its) championship, a testament to Coach Greg Velasco,” Vaez said.
However, the victory of the sophomore-level Ohio State Buckeyes had the crowd going, according to Vaez.
“With two players out, they played six on six, not a single kid getting a break. You didn’t see it coming with this team, but they pulled it out, and won the sophomore division for Murrieta,” Vaez said.
“If you can throw, catch, and run, this is the sport for you,” Vaez said.
Kids play in divisions divided by age (5-14) group — Kindergarten, Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, and Senior level.
“We had six leagues, with 48 teams from all over southern California. This tournament took a year in the making, and we owe its success largely in part to Murrieta City Councilman Alan Long,” Vaez said.
The Murrieta league began with 300 participants and now boasts over 2,500 participants, with games in both the fall and spring.
The founding organization has expanded across Southern California to include leagues in Huntington Beach, Garden Grove, Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Carlsbad, Murrieta, and now Temecula.
“We had a great first day of camp at Birdsall park, and are finishing the week at Chaparral High School,” Vaez said. There will also be a fall 2012 skills camp before the season picks up again in September.
Friday Night Lights draws team names and colors from the various university programs.
“The new Temecula division will most likely be taken from Big 12 or Pac 12 teams,” said Vaez. “Kids get to know the different teams, and we even have players who follow or want to go to school based upon the college teams on their replica jerseys.”
With sold-out summer Friday Night Lights camps, and interest in flag football on the rise, Vaez said the fall 2012 season looks to be the best yet.
To learn more, visit www.murrietafnl.com.
Ashley Ludwig is a local writer and regular contributor to SWRNN.