Jason Detamore grew up in West Virginia and has been around competitive football most of his life.
When he moved his family to Santa Monica some years ago he became coach of the Santa Monica Vikings in the Mighty Mites division of the NFL Youth Football program, and recently enjoyed a unique victory.
“We had lost to Palos Verdes a week earlier in a regular season game,” he said.. “Then we beat them in the playoffs. It was like nothing I have ever experienced. It was my most exciting moment in sports. It felt like a dream.”
It’s not all about wins and losses because Detamore is trying to teach life lessons to his guys, who are seven to nine years old and weigh less than 90 pounds. But winning is a reward for hard work.
“We’ve won some and lost some and hopefully they’re seeing what to expect out of life,” said Detamore. “We teach them to do the right things. By beating Palos Verdes we overachieved.”
There are five Santa Monica Viking teams involving nearly 300 boys. The Mighty Mites are the youngest. There are age and weight limits for each team.
“The program is for boys seven to 14 years old,” said Detamore. “At 14 they’re ready for high school.”
Home games are played at Santa Monica High on Saturday mornings and it can be a venture for brothers and sisters because there’s an accompanying program for cheereading. The coaches are all unpaid volunteers.
In Detamore’s first season as head coach he relied heavily on assistant coaches who’ve had more experience in youth football. One was Rick Regalado, the manager of Kramer Sporting Goods in Santa Monica, who has worked with numerous youth players over the last 10 years who have gone on to play for Santa Monica High.
A graduate of the SM Vikings is Ryan Katz, Santa Monica High’s record-setting quarterback this season as a sophomore.
Then there are the Garcias.
Robert Garcia, another former SM Viking, was an all-league linebacker at Samohi the last two years. In the SM Vikings’ upset of Palos Verdes, a key fumble was recovered by Daniel Garcia late in the game, Robert’s brother.
Detamore also relied heavily on assistant coach Ezequiel Gonzalez, the father of Aztlan, who led the SM Vikings in touchdowns and tackles and has drawn considerable praise from opposing coaches.
Detamore’s son, Jordan, was the SM Vikings’ quarterback this season but every one of the players earned his admiration.
“I’m in awe of them,” he said. “Eleven are honor students.”
Allan Hanckel and John Morton also contributed as assistant coaches.
Detamore emphasizes there are openings for players next season on all five Viking teams, as Palos Verdes and others had squads of 30 and more while the Santa Monica teams had rosters with about 20.
The SM Viking Mighty Mites made the playoffs and advanced to the regional championship game, where they lost to Lakewood.
“It was important for our guys to learn the running game first, so that’s what we did,’’ said Detamore. “Toward the end of the season we began passing and we intend to open up the offense next season when we move to the next level of competition.”
Being older will bring another advantage. The group will play 10 a.m. games instead of starting at 8 a.m.
The SM Viking Mighty Mites:
Jack Cano, Jordan Detamore, James Dunn, Lorenzo Regelado, Aztlan Gonzalez, Ricky Bryant, Jordan Happle, Benjamin Arce, Jesse Hanckel, David Singleton, Jonas Harris, Zene Morton, Marshall Cohen, Daniel Garcia, Beau-Ray Dotson, Clayton Ehrlich, Zaq Moul, Eddie Brown, Brendon Lapins, Matthew Sherman, Sean Wheeler, Ganki Yoshida, and Anthony Wilbur.
For more information see www.smvikings.com.