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Combined Pop Warner team now competing for Super Bowl

Even before the La Costa Canyon Pop Warner Midgets stepped on a field this season, the team faced a big challenge.

At the beginning of the year, the La Costa Canyon Mavericks merged with their rivals, the Carlsbad Lancers, thanks to neither team having enough players at this Pop Warner level.

That meant reconciling different coaching strategies. Agreeing on practice fields and jerseys. And defusing tension.

“The teams were once massive rivals,” said head coach Brian Reynolds. “So the coaches from the teams met early on to set any differences aside.”

The Mavericks’ coaches and players have certainly come together. Following an undefeated season, the team has a major game Dec. 7. What’s up for grabs? Not just local or statewide bragging rights — try national.

The 13- and 14-year-old Mavericks are heading to Orlando, Fla., on Dec. 5 to compete against seven other teams in the Division 1 Pop Warner Super Bowl Championships.

Cole Miller, 13, who plays linebacker and receiver, said when the season started, a little bit of the old rivalry remained.

“You just got to get past that,” Miller said, adding, “We’re all friends now. We get along.”

He said getting to travel and play in Florida is “really exciting.”

Reynolds echoed him. “It’s an amazing way to cap off a great season. But we know the games ahead will be difficult. We’re playing the cream of the crop.”

The Mavericks’ first game, which will be streamed online at ESPN3.com, is at 10 a.m. Dec. 7 against Winston-Salem, N.C. Win or lose, their second game is at 7:30 a.m. Dec. 10, also on ESPN3.com.

The top two Division 1 teams will face off in the Super Bowl Dec. 13.

During the regular season, the Mavericks dominated opponents by scoring 334 points, while the defense gave up only 28 points.

The team’s greatest challenge came two weeks ago, when it defeated Orange County’s Rancho Margarita Eagles 8-6 in a nail-biter, earning a trip to Florida.

In the first quarter, both teams scored touchdowns. A defensive battle ensued. With three minutes left in the game, the Mavericks were poised to score, but the Eagles recovered a goal line fumble. Then, the Eagles marched down the field to the 50-yard line, when the Mavericks recovered a fumble and kneeled out the game.

“It was an intense, physical game,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds, whose son, Matthew, plays linebacker and right guard on the team, said he’s had plenty of help this year from the other coaches, who each specialize in various parts of the game.

“There’s one other coach with a son on the team,” Reynolds said. “Then we have three volunteers who are helping out just because they love the game.”

And the players recently got some pointers from Brandon Chillar, a retired Green Bay Packer who graduated from Carlsbad High. Also on hand was Brett Swain, a wide receiver who graduated from Carlsbad High School, played for the Green Bay Packers and is in the Canadian Football League.

“These guys, with their reputation, they really made the players stand up and listen,” Reynolds said.

The Mavericks are seeking donations to help offset travel expenses for their Florida trip. To contribute, visit www.lccpw.org.


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