Football season is almost upon us. Late summer and autumn weekends filled with long passes, breakaway runs, jarring hits, game day parking lot grilling, silly mascots and bad-fitting alumni gear. A time when local high schools and community colleges command attention and create passion.
But there will be another brand of football available for viewing in the San Fernando Valley this fall.
A new, seven-team semipro adult league is starting up, known as the West Coast Football League. It will feature a new regional team known as the San Fernando Valley Bulldogs, who will open their inaugural season on Saturday, Sept. 7 at home against the Vegas Trojans. The home field will be at Poly High School in Sun Valley.
Stanley Burrage the owner and head coach of the infant franchise, describes semipro football as “a second or third chance” for older players who still enjoy the game, and still harbor dreams of playing in bigger professional leagues — or the ultimate professional league, the NFL.
“Most of the guys come in hoping they can get picked up by the Arena Football League, which is on the rise again, or play in Europe,” Burrage said. “You gotta have film (of your play), and this gives them film they can show people.”
The minimum age is 18, Burrage said, adding the semipro game is for the player who “still wants to play football and doesn't have any other alternative.” The 40-player roster he is in the midst of putting together will range from complete novices to those who played high school and/or college football.
“They make the team by showing their commitment (of paying a $160 fee) being that we don't pay our players. What we have is an open door to athletes looking for a second or third chance at the sport,” Burrage said.
Another chance is what Derrick Glaze was looking for.
Originally from Pacoima, the brawny fullback played high school football at Long Beach Poly, and college football at El Camino College in Torrance and later at Bacone College in Muskogee, OK, where he graduated. He works for LD Harris Corporation Surveillance Systems in Van Nuys.
“I know a couple of guys who played semipro before for Coach Burrage,” Glaze said. “When this new team was formed, I thought ‘I don’t have to go to Long Beach, I can stay right here at home.’”
He said he’s about “80 percent” as far as being back in top football shape. More importantly, other, older football injuries have healed. It gives Glaze hope he can still pursue a full-time professional career.
“I’m not too old or too young to still pursue what I want to do,” said Glaze, 28. “I think I have a greater chance now than before. I have resources, and I have more experience.
“I still have love for the game. When you’ve been doing it for so long, and put so much time, effort and determination into it, it brings out the best in you. The camaraderie with your brothers in football is unmatched in any other sport to me. The game will never leave my heart. It took me from California to North Carolina to Oklahoma, all the way back home. I got to see America based off this sport and my academics. The love will never fade.”
Teammate Robert Jones took an extended break from football after graduating from Canoga Park High School in 2005. But in 2015 he began to get the itch again. “I work out constantly, so staying in shape was not a problem,” Jones said. He previously played for Burrage in Lancaster. The veteran linebacker will be entering his fourth season of semipro football with the Bulldogs.
“Semipro is fun,” said Jones, 32, who goes by the nickname “Saba” (a Swahili word for “seven,” which is his uniform number). “There are like 3-4 different leagues in the LA and San Bernardino counties. I think it’ll be a great season here. And for the new guys, it’ll be especially great for them because they’ll see how different [the football] is. It’s a little lower than the NFL, but about the same as college, as far as athleticism goes.”
Jones said he still may go out to an NFL team tryout camp after the season but has no illusions about being “discovered” at this point of his life.
“You never know. I’ll just throw my name in the hat, and if it gets pulled out, go full force,” he said.
This inaugural season will consist of seven regular season games, two playoff games and a league championship game. The games will be played on Saturdays. Burrage said ticket prices will be modest; $10 for adults, $5 for those 17 and under. Military and all first responders with ID can get in free. And Burrage plans to split the gate receipts with Poly High.
“These leagues succeed by giving teams who sign up and pay their league fees a guaranteed at play, a number of regular season games, playoffs and championships,” Burrage said.
He is betting there is enough of a fan base in the San Fernando Valley to help him and the Bulldogs do just that.
The season opens Sept. 7. People can purchase tickets through the team’s Instagram (@sfvbulldogs) or Facebook pages; by email firstname.lastname@example.org; or at the stadium before the game.)