If joining a youth football program were akin to choosing a team to play for in free agency, then joining the Newport-Mesa Junior All-American Midget Seahawks would be like signing a basketball contract to play on the same team as LeBron James.
As of late, those who have put on the uniform have become instant contenders.
For the third time in four years, the Seahawks have won the Orange County Junior All-American Football Midget Super Bowl. This year, the Seahawks had two teams in the big game.
The Newport-Mesa Blue team defeated the Newport-Mesa Green 32-0 on Sunday night at Fullerton High.
From beginning to end, the winning Seahawks, whose players were 13 and 14 years old, were a force to be reckoned with. The Newport-Mesa Blue team outscored its opponents 426-22 this season.
“My old coach with the 49ers, Bill Walsh, used to say, ‘On offense, make the defense defend every inch of the football field, and on defense, make the offense play in as small of a box as you can,’” said Mike Salmon, who shared the head coaching duties with the Newport-Mesa Blue team. “That’s exactly what the boys did.”
The Newport-Mesa Blue team has four All-Star selections on its roster — Ethan Watson, Charlie Mannon, Peter Vanis and Shawn Lin. All of them played on both sides of the ball.
Watson routinely crossed the 200-yard rushing threshold in games, and his breakneck speed made him an effective pass rusher.
“Those quarterbacks had about a second-and-a-half to throw the ball before that guy came flying around the end and hit them in the chin,” Salmon said of Watson, a defensive end.
Watson will be attending high school at Mater Dei. NFL quarterback Matt Barkley is another former OCJAAF Super Bowl champion with the Newport-Mesa organization to have played his prep football with the Monarchs.
Several of this year’s players are planning to join the thriving high school football program of Corona del Mar, including Mannon, the quarterback, and Gavin Scott, a bulky nose guard.
Salmon said that aside from his physical attributes, Mannon excelled at a quarterback’s pre-snap duties, especially getting players lined up to run a play.
As for Scott, he was dubbed the team’s unsung hero because he was indispensable for his ability to draw the attention of multiple offensive linemen.
“He was in there getting double-teamed,” Salmon said of Scott. “I think he weighs 210 pounds, and he was just a wide body. If you don’t have a guy in there clogging up the middle, putting pressure on the quarterback, you’re going to be in trouble.”
A handful of current CdM players won an OCJAAF championship for Newport-Mesa in 2015. Those among them were standout wide receiver John Humphreys, current fourth-string quarterback General Booty and tight end Mark Redman.
The Newport-Mesa Blue team went 11-0 this season, and it did so in OCJAAF’s first season with an unlimited weight division.
Under the new rules, Inglewood proved to be a tough matchup physically. Salmon said that the Phantoms, his team’s semifinals opponent, averaged around 250 pounds on the line.
The Newport-Mesa Blue team defeated Inglewood 38-0 in the semifinals. During the regular season, the Seahawks won that matchup 51-6.
Mark Mannon and Salmon were co-head coaches. Salmon’s son, Jack, also played on the team. Danny Lane was the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator, and Todd Farley was the linebackers and special teams coach.
Salmon said the Newport-Mesa Green team had standouts as well, including Preston Bond, a freshman at Newport Harbor High.
Bond played running back and quarterback on offense, and linebacker on defense. Other contributors were Camden Dass, a quarterback and defensive back, tight end Duke Starnes, and lineman Nathan Bloom.
Dennis Wilson and Satish Dass coached the Newport-Mesa Green team to an 8-2 record.
The Newport-Mesa Pee Wee Seahawks also won the OCJAAF Super Bowl for the second year in a row. Coach Aaron Merriman has led the Seahawks to 22 straight wins.
Nov. 15, 4:25 p.m.: This article was updated with information on the Newport-Mesa Pee Wee Seahawks.
This article was originally published on Nov. 14 at 5:25 p.m.