CARLSBAD — At the beginning of each practice, the La Costa Canyon Pop Warner 10U football team acknowledges the hardest working player by awarding them a sledgehammer and hard hat, a visual representation of the team’s slogan: “Be the hammer, not the nail.”
But this team of young North County athletes is hardly under construction.
The Mavs finished the season 8-1 after defeating Oceanside 30-0 in the West Coast Conference championship game on Oct. 30 in Carlsbad, opening the door to compete on the national stage for just the third time in 25 years at the Pop Warner Football Championships at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida.
For much of the Mavericks’ roster, which consists of more than two-dozen players between the ages of 8 and 10 from Encinitas, Carlsbad, Oceanside and San Marcos, it’s their first year playing organized tackle football.
And now they have the chance to transform a winning season into a historical one.
At the Pop Warner Super Bowl, 72 teams from eight regions across the country will play for a chance to hoist the ultimate gridiron trophy.
The Mavs are one of eight teams in their division and must win two games in Florida starting Dec. 4 to earn a chance to play in the finale aired on ESPN networks the following weekend.
Mavericks coach Scottie Tucker coach said this opportunity is a result of the team’s hard work and commitment all season long and the amazing support of parents, coaches and fans.
“You couldn’t ask much more of these kids,” Tucker told The Coast News. “They are dedicated. They bring attitude and effort every day.”
But just because they are conference champs doesn’t mean they get a dress-down day. Tucker, whose two sons Cole and Dax both play on the team, has maintained a rigorous practice schedule before hopefully heading off to nationals.
“Right now, we are business as usual,” Tucker said. “Conditioning, everything stays the same. Nothing has changed. We practice the same, coach the same. We come in with a game plan, and the boys take it all in.”
Aside from the Xs and Os, the team is also coordinating a multi-pronged fundraising effort to help parents send their kids to Florida next month, setting a goal of raising $64,000. The Mavs are also preparing to host a silent auction dinner on Nov. 29 at Park 101 restaurant in Carlsbad.
Tucker, a battalion chief at Carlsbad Fire Department, said the community and local businesses have rallied to support the team by donating items for auction.
“The team is working feverishly to raise funds to pay for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Tucker said. “It’s a pretty decent-sized bill to put 26 players and staff out there. So, we are trying to alleviate some of the financial burdens on these families.”
If the Mavs raise enough money to play in Orlando, the team will be representing San Diego County and the entire Wescon Region, which comprises 13 leagues from Southern California, Arizona, Southern Nevada, and the Hawaiian islands (Big Island, Oahu, Maui and Kauai).
“This has been an incredible year for the kids,” said Brad Lineberger, father of Mavs’ player Jake Lineberger. “The coaching staff has been outstanding and the boys have a special bond. We are really proud of what this team has been able to accomplish.”
To support the Mavericks, visit their GoFundMe page or make a donation through Venmo to @LaCostaCanyon-PopWarner or scan the QR codes below.