I keep hearing good things about Estancia High School football.
I am not just talking about their as-yet perfect record in Orange Coast League play or their shot at their first unshared title since 1989. (I am writing this before the outcome of Friday's Battle for the Bell game against Costa Mesa.)
I am talking about that be-true-to-your-school pride. I am talking about confidence. I am talking about that sense of belonging that kids get when they play team sports and play them well.
The once-struggling squad has turned a corner. The coaching is solid. Players who could transfer to bigger programs are choosing to stay and play. In fact, three players transferred from Newport Harbor High School to Estancia — not exactly a well-worn path. The players hold their heads high, even wearing shirts and ties on game days.
But there are hurdles, and they have to do with money.
Estancia's committed boosters have done well with fundraising, but this isn't Mater Dei. The program had to borrow about $10,000 to make the final payment on new uniforms.
"Four years ago, fundraising was a phone call away," said Steve Mensinger, president of the boosters. "However, this year the economy has hit us hard."
The Eagles need help paying back what they owe. Boosters and players are selling discount cards to local businesses and raising money in other ways, but it hasn't been quite enough.
I mentioned the predicament to some folks on the business side of the Daily Pilot and Los Angeles Times, and they offered to sponsor a fundraiser to help the Eagles retire the debt.
Maria Elena Avila, owner of Avila's El Ranchito Mexican Restaurant on Costa Mesa's Westside, and a friend to this community (and to me) for many years, generously offered her restaurant to help the cause.
So from 4 to 10 p.m. Nov. 17, Avila will donate 20% of her receipts to Estancia football. There are no coupons or passwords — just show up and eat and you'll help the Eagles keep those new unis on their backs.
Mensinger, a city planning commissioner, is working to bring in players, coaches and supporters so they can meet with fans, alumni and members of the community.
I plan to attend the event with Daily Pilot Sports Editor Steve Virgen — a guy who not only knows football, but deeply cares about the athletic programs in Newport-Mesa. I am sure folks will want to talk to him about the Battle of the Bell.
So come see us, and we'll talk sports and news. We'll support some good kids. We'll eat well and toast to a winning season.
JOHN CANALIS is the editor of the Daily Pilot, Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot and Huntington Beach Independent. He can be reached at (714) 966-4607 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
If You Go
What: Estancia High School Football fund-raiser
When: 4 to 10 p.m. Nov. 17
Where: Avila's El Ranchito Mexican Restaurant, 2101 Placentia Ave., Costa Mesa