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Local squad has bigger purpose

Skyhawks pair with Hoefflin Foundation to battle cance

Posted: December 9, 2009 10:14 p.m.
Updated: December 10, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Last year, the Santa Clarita Sentinels were just another semiprofessional football squad.

This season, the Santa Clarita-based team - now called the Skyhawks - will be a nonprofit organization playing with a purpose.

Skyhawks treasurer Michael McIntyre said a personal experience forced a change in direction.

"We wanted to play for the children affected by cancer," McIntyre said. "We wanted to give the players a better motivation, instead of something as simple as playing for what's on the sleeve on their shoulders. It steps up the players we have."

McIntyre was friends with the mother of Jericho, a local boy who successfully battled non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma with chemotherapy, a story told on the Michael Hoefflin Foundation's Web site.

The Hoefflin Foundation, a local nonprofit that provides emotional and financial support for families affected by children's cancer, is the Skyhawks' vehicle for change.

McIntyre contacted the nonprofit, which was extremely receptive to the idea. Soon after, a partnership was born. The Hoefflin Foundation will receive the proceeds that the nonprofit team raises, after expenses like field rental are paid for.

Jeffrey Shapiro, executive director of the Michael Hoefflin Foundation, described it as a community service partnership between two locally focused groups.

"We're thrilled," said Jeffrey Shapiro, executive director of the Michael Hoefflin Foundation. "The Skyhawks approached us and decided that they wanted to give back to the community beyond playing football. They wanted the team to have that type of commitment (to a cause)."

It's also helped rejuvenate the squad.

Last year, head coach Jamil Antoine said with only 15-17 players for most of the season, a majority of them had to play both ways.

He said it wore on the team, which competes in the United Football Alliance League season, lasting from July to November.

After 50 athletes turned out for this year's initial tryout on Nov. 21 - mostly local high school and college products - the team was able to be trimmed down to 43.
Antoine attributes the new cause as a big part of the turnaround.

"I think that's the main reason," Antoine said. "You have a lot of people in the valley who still kind of have that fire, but if they're going to do something it's going to be for a cause."

The team will have another tryout in January, so anyone else who wants to pull the cleats out of retirement still has a chance to do so.

McIntyre, a former player who's been involved in the 11-team league for five years now, says semiprofessional football players come from all walks of life.

Shawn Bridges, the Skyhawks' defensive coordinator, had a son playing for the Sentinels and saw that the team needed a running backs coach.

Bridges ended up helping out on defense as well.

"Then he decided to suit up and he played, an old man even with his knee issues," McIntyre said with a laugh.

Bridges will be the defensive coordinator this year as the Skyhawks play their first exhibition game on Dec. 19 at Canyon High against the Long Beach All Americans at 1:30 p.m.

There will also be several of the team's newest beneficiaries on the sideline, as Shapiro said several of the foundation's families will be in attendance.

As the team prepares to take the field, it does so with a real purpose and motivation, Antoine said.

"We're going to volunteer all this time and effort for something we love anyway. Why not do it for a cause?" he said.

For more information about the Skyhawks, visit their Web site at or e-mail


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