Displaced by the Woolsey Fire, a Thousand Oaks youth football team was able to prepare for its Super Bowl this week on its local NFL practice field.
The Thousand Oaks Titans played a team from Palmdale Falcons in the Pacific Youth Football League’s senior division final Saturday night at San Marcus High in Goleta.
But the chaos created by the Woolsey Fire meant the team had lost its ability to prepare for the game.
“We lost all of our permits because of the fires,” said Steve Szakos of the Titans. “When the school districts closed, the parks closed and they revoked all of our permits.”
So Szakos figured out a way to explain the team’s plight to the Los Angeles Rams, who practice in Thousand Oaks on Cal Lutheran University’s North campus.
“We were literally scrambling,” Szakos said. “CLU was booked. Other schools don’t want to let you because you’re out of the district anyway. So I literally drove up to the security guard one night and said: ‘Here’s the situation. Here’s what we’re doing.’”
The team of eighth-graders, coached by Lance Martin, arrived Friday afternoon for a walkthrough in front of parents and a camera crew.
“This right here is awesome,” line coach Mike McKenna said as he watched the kids play on Todd Gurley’s workplace.
“The Rams have been really cool. …These dudes are just really energized, man. They’ve been through a lot this week, so this is nice to see.”
Several of the players, many of who live in the immediate neighborhoods that surround the teams practice facility at CLU, were impacted by fire.
Quarterback Jacob Poley was evacuated with his family at 3 a.m. on Nov. 10. They returned to a backyard blackened by fire.
“It’s crazy to think our home could have been damaged,” Poley said. “I’m very thankful overall that it’s safe and most people are safe.”
The team practiced in front of ESPN cameras on Friday. A camera from Fox’s NFL pregame show is expected to film highlights from its game Saturday. The team was surprised after practice Friday with tickets to the Rams’ “Monday Night Football” showdown with the Kansas City Chiefs.
But the treat of preparing for its Super Bowl in an NFL practice facility was special enough for the players Friday.
“It’s just amazing that they’ve offered us a home, another shelter for us to practice and play as our Super Bowl is (Saturday) night,” said Poley.