Rick’s Sports Corner: Mighty Burbank Vikings Prevail

Seventeen youngsters from St. Finbar helped the Burbank Vikings to great heights.

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By Rick Assad

They’re young and having fun doing something they love and that’s playing the grand game of football. Well flag football.

Every player attends St. Finbar Parish School and includes six fourth graders. They are running back/linebacker John Paul Yumul II, Joseph Westmoreland, running back Miles Bautista, Mia Sanchez, Daniel Hernandez and Grant Maline.

Eight third graders are on the team, and they are quarterback/safety Evan Gallegos, running back Jacob Espinoza, wide receiver Richard Hastings, Loyle Washam, Leonardo Madariaga, Xavier Banye, Carter Velie and Brandon Luna.

There are three second graders and they include Mattthew Millunzi, Michael Toner and Vivian Toner.

Yumul II led the team in touchdowns, while Hastings was second, Espinoza finished third, Gallegos placed fourth and Bautista was fifth.

The leading flag pullers were Yumul II who placed first, Gallegos took second, Westmoreland nabbed third, Hastings was fourth, Espinoza was fifth and Sanchez took sixth.

When it comes to interceptions, Yumul II was the leader, Madariaga was second and Westmoreland took third.

The leading sackers saw Banye finish first, followed by Espinoza, with Bautista third and Sanchez fourth.

These seventeen players helped the St. Finbar Vikings, who went 9-0, not only win the regular season Burbank Parks and Recreation third and fourth grade league championship, as well as the third and fourth grade in-season Parks and Recreation tourney but placed second in the Southern California Municipal Athletic Federation tournament in Azusa behind Pasadena after playing three straight games.

A number of the other squads from other cities opted to create All-Star teams.

It’s a fun time for the St. Finbar School flag football team members of the Burbank Vikings. (Photo courtesy Jonathan Hastings)

Jonathan Hastings, the head coach, along with assistant coaches, Alyssa Ziegler-Hastings, his wife, George Espinoza, Michael Hastings, Daniel Madariaga, Tory McCallum and Matt Toner, decided to keep the same team from the previous season with one addition.

They picked up Preston Anderson, who plays for the Steelers, and was a key contributor.

“Last season playing in the same third and fourth grade division, we were mostly second graders playing up,” said Hastings, who has coached this team the last two seasons of his squad. “I am grateful to Jon McGinley and the sports office staff for allowing us to do so as it helped shape the future of our program.”

Hastings, who has been a football coach on and off for 16 years, went on: “In that season we got tough and had to grow up fast. This season we were mostly third graders and some fourth graders and a few second graders again. We had a full season under our belt and the experience sure showed,” he noted. “Our athletes learned that flag pulling and blocking are the most important skills in football in order for our team to succeed. They bought in on that thought and shut teams down defensively and offensively everyone understood their role.”

At this age, it’s always about having fun and if winning comes about, all the better. It’s also about learning.

“Our coaching staff truly loves each and every one of these athletes,” said Hastings, who leads business development for an advertising and marketing agency. “Our main message all year was to play for each other, play hard and have fun. The “team before me” attitude was instilled from the very beginning. All of our players know that when an individual scores a touchdown, it’s because every player on the field did their job and it was a team effort.”

Hastings, who has a son Richard and a daughter Natalia, continued: “After all of the playing disciplined and hard every down, our kids had so much fun together. Having fun is always paramount within a team winning culture,” he pointed out. “Most importantly, this team is a family. Off of the field they study, eat lunch, play recess, do school performances, go to church and pray together. This is a tight-knit group that I have had.”

Each player has grown as a football player and also as a person.

“Football is such a team sport and instruction is a key factor,” Hastings said. “Each and every play has its own development and strategy so getting kids to learn all of that is like a classroom setting on the field. Our team is very smart, and I can attribute that to my entire coaching staff that got them prepared for every game. That type of attention to detail will help them as they get into playing in high school, which I can guarantee most of these athletes will. Their coaches will be lucky to have them.”

The Burbank Vikings, who all attend St. Finbar, are having a grand time playing flag football. (Photo courtesy Jonathan Hastings)

Getting and molding the team took effort from every person involved in the team operation.

“Given that every player goes to the same school, St. Finbar, and our principal [Rosselle Azar] and athletic director [Mike Graceffo] are so supportive of the sports program, fielding the team was fairly simple,” Hastings said. “The parents are also amazing. As long as I have been coaching, this has been one of the best groups of parents coming out to support every game. We even had our school cheerleaders come to our final two games, which was very special.”

Hastings said there were many players and plays that stood out and offered a few that come to mind.

“This season we saw many electric rushing touchdowns from J.P. Yumul II and impressive screen pass touchdowns as he was clearly the fastest athlete on the field night in and night out,” Hastings recalled. “Those runs led to some big plays and touchdowns by Richard Hastings on wide receiver reverses.”

Hastings wasn’t done remembering some of the special plays and players.

“Evan Gallegos led us on the offensive side at quarterback and did an amazing job commanding the field, even throwing some impressive touchdown passes as well,” he said. “Our ever-elusive Jacob Espinoza had some highlight runs that impressed both teams at times.”

Hastings then spoke about the players up front.

“Our offensive line was led by Daniel Hernandez, Joseph Westmoreland, Xavier Banye, Leonardo Madariaga and Matthew Millunzi who led this group in toughness,” he added.

It seems very likely when these youngsters get older, have jobs, get married and have children of their own, playing flag football will be a childhood highlight.

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