Local youth team wins national crown

For a team that nearly didn't have a place to play, the O.C. Chargers ended their first campaign as champions on the gridiron.

On a rainy Saturday at Huntington Beach High's Sheue Field, the local Amateur Athletic Union youth football team, composed of youth grades sixth through eighth and playing in its inaugural season, won the World Youth Football League national championship by defeating the Rialto Lions, 32-14.

"It was a great way to end the season," Chargers Coach Earnie Sagiao said. "The kids had a great year."

Sagiao said the team, which formed last spring, was formerly was known as the H.B. Warriors and was affiliated with Brethren Christian High and competed in the Christian Football League.

"Brethren Christian had the team for the last four years, but the team was in danger of folding due to budget cuts," said Sagiao, who was the assistant head coach of the then-Warriors. "Brethren Christian football Coach Bruce Eien asked me to take over the program, and I did.

"This is like a 'transition' league to get intermediate-age kids ready for high school. The difference between this league and Pop Warner Football and Jr. All-American Football leagues is that there is no weight restriction in our league."

Sagiao said O.C. Chargers players come from middle schools — as well as Brethren Christian, which is K-through-12 — within the Huntington Beach Union High School District.

The O.C. Chargers opened their first season in the six-team Christian Football League in early-September. Sagiao said the Chargers posted wins against Calvary Murrieta and twice over four-time reigning league champ Rio Hondo Prep. Then, he said, the team was voted out of the league.

"They didn't want us in the league anymore," he said. "They felt that we were too big and too physical. We had to find a new place to play."

Sagiao said he learned through a friend about AAU youth football, then went online and found the World Youth Football League in the Inland Empire.

The Chargers had a new home.

"We matched up very well with the teams out there," he said of AAU teams from Etiwanda, Redlands, Moreno Valley, Riverside, Fontana and Glendora. "The teams in that league feed into high school programs like Redlands and Eisenhower. We had a great time in the league."

The Chargers joined the World Youth Football League in late-September and then preceded to roll off eight straight victories before suffering their first defeat, a 20-15 loss to Redlands, in their ninth game.

In postseason play, Sagiao said the team finished second to the Red River Raiders (Sacramento) at the State Championships and later went to Oceanside, where they qualified for the Western Regional tournament held earlier this month in Las Vegas. They then earned a spot in Saturday's national championship game.

The O.C. Chargers are: Daniel Armando, A.J. Beynon, Wesley Brown, Ryan Burke, Hunter Burleson, Travis Burleson, Kristian Crabb, Brandon Entwistle, Noah Fuller, Matthew Gane, Justin Geer, Andrew Horner, Cole Jensen, Alex Losoya, Damian Luna, Max Machado, Jonah (Sosefo) Mailangi-Ray, Levi McCallion, A.J. Murray, Noah Neibors, Genesis Ofagalili, Sharky (Mark) Reza, Jack Rielly, Olive Sagapolu, Eddie Tauanuu-Murray, Siafega (Andrew) Umu, Grant Vis, Jared Wilson and Nolan Winks. Lucky Sagiao and Sammy Fuga served as assistant coaches.

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