Over 60 teams from nine Friday Night Lights leagues in Southern California converged on McAuliffe Middle School June 7 in Los Alamitos to determine the best of the best in each age group from around Southern California in the Friday Night Lights Youth Flag Football Tournament of Champions.
The big local winners of the evening were the second-place team out of Newport-Mesa Friday Night Lights in the third- and fourth-grade division, the Clemson Tigers coached by Devin Miller. The Tigers came into the TOC primed and ready to go. They beat Carlsbad 32-0, Temecula 40-0, ran into a tough team from Huntington Beach and came out on top 28-6. They then played another team from Huntington Beach, the Nebraska Huskers, in the finals and won again, 18-6.
Clemson Coach Miller really wanted to face LSU in the finals and avenge their 7-6 loss in the Newport-Mesa Championships, but he was more than thrilled for his players and the way they came out to play and compete in four games on Saturday night. The third- and fourth-grade Friday Night Lights champions are Ryan Boyles, Jake Hoffer, Andrew Llanos, Nate Manning, Grayson Marquez, Gunner Miller, Ashton Sardinas and Anthony Willhite.
Overall Newport-Mesa sent nine teams, the champions and finalists from each age group. They included the first- and second-grade Chicago Bears and Fresno State Bulldogs, third- and fourth-grade LSU Tigers and Clemson Tigers, fifth- and sixth-grade Florida State Seminoles and Stanford Cardinal, seventh- and eighth-grade Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers and at-large bid Fresno State Bulldogs.
The action was electric throughout the evening with teams from Palm Desert, Carlsbad, Garden Grove, Temecula, Murrieta, Irvine, Huntington Beach and host Los Alamitos. This is the third annual spring event, and this season Newport-Mesa sent a group of teams that had real potential to take on the more dominant leagues in Los Alamitos and Huntington Beach.
The first games began at 4 p.m. and the championship games were played at 9 p.m., with most teams having to compete in four games to win the championship. It was not only a test of skill level but conditioning.
The 2014 version of the Friday Night Lights TOC had Newport-Mesa teams going deep into the tournament with one exception. The first- and second-grade Chicago Bears suffered their first loss all season with a narrow defeat at the hands of the HB Oakland Raiders, 14-12.
The third- and fourth-grade division saw both the LSU Tigers and the Clemson Tigers go to the semifinal round in hopes of an all Newport-Mesa final, but it was not to be as LSU fell to HB. The fifth- and sixth-grade Florida State Seminoles lost in the semifinals to Los Alamitos, a team Coach Larry Wein admitted was very good, but his team just didn't come out to finish it out. And in the seventh- and eighth-grade division, Newport-Mesa Chicago Bears suffered their first defeat of the season at the hands of another Los Alamitos team.
This was the first season that Newport-Mesa has had four teams get to the semifinal round of the Tournament of Champions.
— Reader submission