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They’re ready for some football

Jeff Tully

You don’t have to tell the local high school football coaches the

importance of having a strong youth feeder program.

All they have to do is look at the success of Santa Clarita


schools like Hart and Valencia -- which benefit from many youth

organizations -- in recent years to see how beneficial it is for high

schools to get players who have experience playing football.

However, Burbank and Burroughs highs could be reaping the benefits


of a strong feeder program, as the Burbank Vikings Youth Tackle

Football program -- the city’s lone youth organization -- has seen a

resurgence and has been growing the past two years.

“It is so important to have a strong program like the Vikings for

both John Burroughs and Burbank,” said Burbank High Coach Greg

Sobiech, who used to be a Vikings’ coach. “When you get players who

come to high school for their freshman year, they know how to play

football and you don’t have to teach them the basics.


“This year, we have quite a few freshmen players who will be

playing for us who come from the Vikings. And I know Burroughs has a

lot of kids out for its freshman team.

“I think the Vikings are doing a great job and I look for the

program to keep getting stronger.”

Although the program suffered through some hard times in the

late-1980s through the mid-1990s -- even disbanding for a time -- the

past few seasons the organization has experienced an increased


interest and more players are participating.

Since its inception in 1969, the Vikings have helped develop their

share of successful players. Organization alumni have gone on to star

in high school and major college football, and a few have even made

it to the NFL.

One of those players is Mike McDonald, who was a Vikings player in

the 1970s before going on to star at Burroughs, USC and in the NFL

for the L.A. Rams.

McDonald said the organization has probably put its lean times

behind it.

“I think we have really turned the corner,” McDonald said. “During

the heyday of the Vikings, there were something like 11 or 12 teams

with 30 kids each. Back then there was just tons of kids.

“But back then, in the late-'60s, ‘70s and into the ‘80s, those

were the days when the high schools were also doing well. So there is

definitely a link.

“In those days, we used to beat teams like Hart and Canyon all the

time. But then the program died for a time, and the talent pool at

the high schools also died.”

With four of the organization’s teams making the playoffs last

season, McDonald is pleased with the amount of players who have

returned, and ecstatic with the crop of new athletes.

“We added a team this year and we will have seven teams playing,

with each team having about 25 players,” McDonald said. “We are also

going to have 60 to 70 cheerleaders in the program, so we are happy

with the amount of boys and girls who are coming out.

“What has also be great is the amount of coaches we have for the

teams. Every team has at least four coaches. The coaches come out and

dedicate their time to the program and put in long hours. They are a

real asset.”

Boys and girls 8 to 14 are eligible to play and teams are

determined by an age/weight formula.

The Viking teams will play eight to 10 regular-season games in the

Pacific Youth Football League, which includes squads from San

Fernando Valley, Ventura, Simi Valley and Santa Clarita Valley.

In the past, the Viking teams have played their home games at

Burbank High. However, because of construction at the school, the

football field has no stands. McDonald said the organization will

probably need to find another facility -- like Burroughs’ Memorial

Field -- in order to stage its games.

McDonald said the only problem with finding another venue is it

will cost the Vikings more money for another spot, as the kick off

the second week of September.

PYFL games are played by and large according to high-school rules.

However, in keeping with the modern youth-sports philosophy of

providing a fun and valuable experience for the athletes, every

player is guaranteed at least 12 downs of playing time per game.

There is also a no piling-on rule and a 25-point rule, meaning

that any time a team has a 25-point advantage, it must remove its

dominant players from the game.

The PYFL objective to “keep the welfare of the player first,

foremost, and entirely free of the adult lust for glory” is strictly


Last season, the organization’s most successful team was its

Senior squad, which went 9-3. The team also made it to the PYFL

Senior Super Bowl, losing to Agoura, 35-6.

Although the Senior team lost many of its players from the Super

Bowl squad, Coach Tim Fry said he expects his Vikings to get back to

the premier game.

“We only have three or four kids who are back from last year,” Fry

said. “The majority of them went on to high school. But we are bigger

than we were last year. We are really big.

“I would really like to go back to the Super Bowl and win it this

year. But it won’t be an easy task by any means. There are some very

good teams in our conference. But we are looking to be right there.”