LC Gladiators Will Not Play Jr. All American Football This Season

La Cañada Gladiators
Photo courtesy Kevin Lacey
The La Cañada Gladiators will not field any teams this season because of rule changes made by the conference. The local youth football organization has participated in every season since 1968.

The La Cañada Gladiators have fielded youth football teams and competed in the San Gabriel Valley Conference of Junior All American Football since 1968, making the program president’s decision to not participate in the 2019 season a difficult one.
Kevin Lacey, who has been involved with the LC Gladiators since 1999, announced there will be no football games for the local program this year because of rule changes that do not “represent the best interest of our participants,” he wrote in a recent letter.
“I’ve been doing this for 20 years,” he told The Outlook this week. “All my children went through the program. It’s been a family affair. Not being down on the field this summer has been very hard.”
For the past three decades, the four tackle football divisions had an age range of three years and limited participants on their weight, allowing players to compete against other kids their own age and similar in size. There was also a flag football division for ages 6-8.
The conference made changes in the offseason, limiting the player range to two years and taking away the weight limit. It also wants to have young athletes start playing tackle football at age 7. The Gladiators requested that lighter kids be able to move down to a more appropriate division but their request was denied by the conference.
“The way the rule is supposed to work, you propose a rule change toward the end of the season, and it gets voted on by cities and franchises in the fall,” Lacey said. “What conferences have been doing lately is they would pass a rule and start tinkering with it.
“If they want do what they are doing, it’s fine. The majority of franchises voted for it. That’s what they want to do. I’m just not sure it’s going to work out for us. If it remains the same, we will be looking at other alternatives.”
Lacey said if the conference had cooperated and allowed the Gladiators to move players down, they could have fielded about two or three teams. He said he would have had a team for 7-8 tackle football.
“We’ve had years where we have few kids, but the conference really stacked the cards this season with no weight limitations and the two-year recruiting windows,” Lacey said. “I lost a horde of kids when parents saw the weight limitation had been removed.
“La Cañada Flintridge is a community different from the others. Parents are more involved and more in tune with what’s going on inside and outside football. Other cities are not having difficulty with teams. We tailor our organization with what La Cañada needs, not what the conference needs.”
Lacey said the organization is open to returning to the conference next season as long as there are fundamental changes. The Gladiators’ board is currently evaluating several options, including finding a new home “that holds the values we stood for. We’d much rather take a year than surrender what we think is important.”
Lacey said he and the board have received feedback from parents and want more from the community. He’s also received support from former Gladiators coaches and board members.
“All the board members have been there for years and are very dedicated,” said La Cañada High School football coach Jason Sarceda, who used to be involved with the Gladiators. “It hurts me to see it shut down this season, but I understand why. This program really influences a lot of kids’ lives, and it’s a shame to see it go away this season. Hopefully it’s just one dead year and not the program.”
“Lacey has made a good decision,” said Randy Boal, a former LCHS athletic director who was on the board when the Gladiators started nearly 50 years ago. “I hate to see the program go for a year. When you close something down, it can be hard to bring it back. I think tackle football for 7-year-olds is too young.”

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