You don’t have to be a Super Bowl champion to yell “I’m Going to Disney World!” For the Eagle Rock Eagles Middle School Flag Football team, a trip to the land of Disney is only the side mission as they travel to compete next week in the 2017 NFL FLAG Championships at the Pro Bowl in Orlando. The 12-man Eagles, all 8th graders, will represent the Los Angeles Rams and the city of Los Angeles on the whole as the 2016 Flag Football City Champions after winning a city-wide vote. The Eagles play as a team under LAUSD’s Beyond The Bell, a grantee program of LA84 that provides free after-school sports program in every LAUSD middle school.
On Thursday, LA84 mascot Sam the Eagle and Ron Brown, Rams legend and 1984 Olympic gold medalist in the 4 x 100-meter relay, were among those in attendance at an school-wide assembly to honor the Eagles for their achievements and to wish them luck as they at the championships, which take place January 27-30.
“It was a dream for me standing atop the podium in 1984,” said Brown, referring to his 4 x 100-meter team that set a world record time at the Coliseum 33 years ago. “If all 12 of you buy into each other, you’ll make great things happen.”
“LA84 has done such a great job of providing good coaches and giving us a support system,” said Eagles head coach Ritchie Samayoa. “This trip is an extra cherry on top. Without LA84, this wouldn’t have happened.
LA84 has funded the Beyond The Bell program since its inception in 2000, and has seen the program expand to see higher participation among girls and bring on new sports, such as rugby, tennis and track & field. The program provides coaches across every sport, and provides its athletes a structured, safe after-school option. Every program in Beyond The Bell is available free of charge for middle school students, an example of LA84’s mission to eliminate financial and logistical barriers to playing sports for youth in Southern California. ”
“Sports are a critical part of being a kid, growing up and learning that through hard work, education and discipline, you can be a champion,” said Anne-Marie Jones, LA84 Vice President, Grants & Programs. “I think we see that right here with the Eagles.”
LA84 provided the entire middle school student body with backpacks, while the team received jerseys and other gear from the Rams as they prepare to face 39 of the nation’s best flag football teams. “I felt like crying. I was so excited that we won,” said Eagles team member John Lasamaya about the team’s opportunity. “The best part has been having our friends support us all the way,” added teammate Julian Montelongo.
The Eagles will begin pool play on Friday, January 27. From then, they will look to advance to the knockout round on January 28 and the championship game on January 29, the day of the NFL’s Pro Bowl.