Ivan Oseguera, 13, of Brentwood, signed up Saturday afternoon in the back room of The Game pizza spot to play for the East County Youth Football Lions Midgets. He quarterbacked the Junior Midgets last season, which beat Clayton Valley to win the Diablo Valley Youth Football Conference Turkey Bowl Championship. He’ll be a freshman at Liberty this year and would prefer to play for the freshman team, if there is one, or JV. But if neither of those opportunities materialize, he can go for a repeat with the Lions.
Mario Camilli founded East County Youth Football and Cheer with his wife Gail 19 years ago, and is understandably proud of its track record in the competitive Diablo Valley Youth Football Conference, which includes much of the East and North Bay. “The Diablo Valley Football Conference is the best conference in California,” he said. “It produces a lot of top athletes. Other programs are fine. But when you play in-house football, how do you get better? You’re playing yourselves. We have been out here the longest, and are the best kept secret out here. People are looking for the best avenue for their kids to succeed. In football you would want to have the best program out there, the most competitive.”
The Lions, which field five teams based on a 7-14 age range, weren’t quite so strong in the beginning. “The conference we are in, there is no three-division tier – you’re Division One with Antioch, West Pittsburg, West County, all of the hard-core teams,” said Camilli. “We went through the fire first. I think we won a total of three games – one was in the playoffs. All of a sudden things started to gel. Ever since then, we’ve won about 80 percent of our games.”
Over the years the football teams have won 60 playoff games, 10 league titles, a national championship in Las Vegas, the aforementioned Turkey Bowl championship and the North Coast Inter-League Championship. In addition, the cheerleaders haven’t just been sitting on the sidelines – they’ve won five national titles and 195 regional titles, including eight titles in last season’s conference championship.
Each Lions team fields 35 players, who pay $300 each for a season. It starts with five day per week, two-hour practices at Liberty High in August, followed by a nine-game schedule from September through early November (perhaps longer if they make the playoffs). Only a $50 payment is required at sign up, so parents aren’t out too much if their child has second thoughts. If he stays, the parents can make monthly payments, and scholarships may be available for those who can’t afford it. The cheer program is more expensive due to the uniforms and travel involved.
“I’m really excited about this program,” said Camilli, who coached future pros such as Jeremy Newberry and Michael Lucky when they were kids. “When you stay in something 29 years it’s pretty hard not to be excited. I tell parents, ‘I will give you your money back if you don’t like it.’ I’ve never had to give anybody their money back. I think we have the best coaches. We produce the best athletes out there. It’s not that the other programs don’t have athletes, but you have to play competition. If you’re not playing a high level of competition, how do your kids get better?”
For more information, call Ernie Young at 925-759-0667 or visit www.ecyflions.com.