The Watts Rams’ Junior Pee Wee and 12U teams competed in the Pop Warner Southern California Conference Championships at Sofi Stadium on Thursday. This is the first youth sports organization to compete at the five-billion-dollar stadium.
Both teams battled and fell short to the Palos Verdes Mavericks. Despite their losses, the Rams players were elated to compete at Sofi.
“It’s a really good thing to go to the championship,” Rams 12U running back Ikeem Crawford said. “Most kids don’t go and I’m really happy, win or lose.”
Zarren Thompson founded the Watts Rams to ease tensions between the LAPD and civilians and prevent youth from turning to crime. He noted how competing at Sofi “will take them a long way.”
“They could be playing here one day in about 10 years,” Thompson said. “It’s priceless, you can’t even pay for something like this.”
Los Angeles Rams mascot Rampage hyped up the Watts Rams from the sidelines. The Junior Pee Wee student-athletes were dedicated to participating in two-hour practice sessions for three days a week, according to their head coach Robert Garcia.
“It means everything, it’s special,” he said. “It’s good to see the kids happy and it’s like a dream for me, I’ve been coaching for seven years.”
With the help of the Los Angeles Rams, the Watts Rams have the resources for their after school program and tutoring sessions. This aided the coaches in promoting one of their primary tenets: academics is a top priority.
“When I first came to the Watts Rams, I was failing in school,” Rams Junior Pee Wee player Kemarion Lamay said. “But now, I’m doing better in school.”
For Zamone Magee,12, the Watts Rams helped him improve his conditioning. He noted how the team maintained good habits during their season.
“We stayed disciplined, we worked hard, and we focused on our games,” he said. “Most of all, we had fun.”
Giving the youth an opportunity to compete at Sofi shows them there is no limit to their possibilities when they work hard.
“Coming off of COVID, we thought it was the best possible way to highlight the kids and them getting back to football,” said Southern California Conference Youth Football executive commissioner Scottie Strong. “We’re trying to save football in the west side of L.A.,”
The coaches on the Watts Rams are LAPD officers. Eddy Limon, who is the officer in charge of the Pueblo Del Rio Apartment Housing attended to support two of his officers who are offensive and defensive coaches. He mentioned how eight young residents of the Pueblos play for the Watts Rams.
“It’s a great program,” Limon said. “It keeps the kids busy, creates a relationship with the officers and then it also brings the families out to get to know us too.”
When the Watts Rams was in its nascent stages, LAPD deputy chief Emada Tingirides urged officers to invite the youth to come compete, even when parents were apprehensive about trusting the police.
“Almost ten years later, we have three teams,” Tingirides said. “We built up trust between law enforcement and the community, we have kids from different parts of Watts playing on one team.”
Although the Watts Rams lost, they are still in contention to compete in the 2021 Pop Warner Super Bowl that will take place from December 4-11.
“If you win the regionals, you get to go to the Super Bowl in Orlando,” said the Pop Warner football west region regional director Paul Watkins. “You’re the crème of the crop when you get there.”