New Costa Mesa youth football program to be known as Chargers

There have been grumblings and negative feelings for kids near Costa Mesa High School gearing up to play for Costa Mesa Pop Warner and having to put on uniforms that displayed the rivals, Eagles.

Well, that’s no more. There’s a new era for Costa Mesa youth football and it goes beyond the nickname. The young football players will be known as the Chargers. That’s of little coincidence as the Los Angeles Chargers have made Costa Mesa their home for headquarters and training camp.

What’s more Costa Mesa Pop Warner, after well over 50 years in the city, is gone.

Youth football in Costa Mesa wants to be all about inclusion. Those in Costa Mesa and Newport Beach wanting to play tackle football have a new program for which to compete.

It’s called Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) football, and the new program is Costa Mesa Newport Football and Cheer (CMNFC), effective immediately and is aiming to be ready for the fall season.

“We want to include everyone,” said Sean Patterson, the new group’s president and a veteran youth football coach. “We wanted an opportunity for all the kids, not just the kids who are physically fit for Pop Warner football. That’s not realistic. You have kids who are larger and who end up playing football in high school and they need to learn when they are younger. For years, [the larger kids in Costa Mesa and Newport Beach] have been excluded because of their size.”

CMNF is the second AAU football program to come to south Orange County, Patterson said, the other being Santa Ana. Patterson is familiar with Santa Ana, as he played for its Pop Warner program back in 1977. His mother is a former president.

Patterson, who was big as a child, remembers running around while wearing a trash bag so he could make weight to play. And, then he would eat candy and other carb-loaded food to regain energy, he said.

Patterson and board members agreed it was time for a change in Costa Mesa.

“We just had enough of Pop Warner, more rules of taking football away from football,” said Patterson, who noted that they no longer wanted to be a part of the Orange Empire Conference.

Patterson said AAU football in Costa Mesa, which will remain at Jim Scott Stadium, will be significantly less expensive than before.

“We are the cheapest tackle football program in Orange County,” Patterson said. “Huntington Beach [Pop Warner’s] price is $500 plus two mandatory fundraisers. I know that a nonprofit needs money to operate. We do. We have insurance to pay and uniforms. We have to maintain pads and helmets. We do need money, but it’s a significant difference. It’s $325 [per player] as opposed to $500 to play the same game on Saturday. It’s a no-brainer.”

Youth football in Costa Mesa had been CMPW Mustangs for years and then later, the Eagles, but now it’s all about the Chargers, as the players will wear uniforms in the likeness of the L.A. Chargers.

Patterson is hopeful that the new youth football program will attract many players. He hopes that the program can be equivalent to feeder teams into each of the high schools in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, Estancia, Costa Mesa, Newport Harbor and Corona del Mar.

“We’re still the same,” Patterson said. “We’re just playing football. I think it’s a better quality of football. We play at a higher level … Now we have to spend the time to get out there. We’ll take anybody. We want to teach them the fundamentals. It’s going to be a great thing. The city and school district loved it. Now it’s time to do it.”

The group is in the process of creating a website. Those interested in signing up can seek information via email at info@cmnchargers.com.

steven.virgen@latimes.com

Twitter: @SteveVirgen

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