Jul 27, 2014
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Murrieta Panthers Tackle First Season, Head for Playoffs

The Murrieta Panthers achieved a combined 25-7 record during this first season, with all four divisions seeded the highest for Saturday's playoff games.

Murrieta Panthers Tackle First Season, Head for Playoffs Murrieta Panthers Tackle First Season, Head for Playoffs Murrieta Panthers Tackle First Season, Head for Playoffs Murrieta Panthers Tackle First Season, Head for Playoffs Murrieta Panthers Tackle First Season, Head for Playoffs Murrieta Panthers Tackle First Season, Head for Playoffs Murrieta Panthers Tackle First Season, Head for Playoffs Murrieta Panthers Tackle First Season, Head for Playoffs

It has been something to watch.

In its first year as an nonprofit organization, Murrieta Panthers Youth Football and Cheer has grown to include 106 football players and 25 cheerleaders.

That is what Todd Cassidy, president and founder, is scratching his head over.

"It is pretty exciting for us," Cassidy said. "We went through a lot of challenges to get it off the ground."

What's more, all four tackle football teams are headed to playoffs this weekend.

The Murrieta Panthers achieved a combined 25-7 record this first season. Rookie division (6 and under) are 5-3, Freshmen division (8 and under) are 7-1, Sophomore division (10 and under) are 7-1 and Junior Varsity division (12 and under) are 5-2.

All four age divisions are the higher seeds in Saturday's playoff games, Cassidy said.

Cassidy, a former Pop Warner parent and coach, intended to start the league out under the American Youth Football Organization. Instead, he went with the Amateur Athletics Union, which allows youth 5-14 to play tackle football with their age group despite their weight.

"No where in the valley has tackle for (the 5-6) age group," Cassidy said. "We feel when we start them earlier they have a better foundation."

He added that allowing kids to play with their age group instead of grouping them by weight guards against injuries.

"Younger kids playing with older kids is where the injuries happen," Cassidy said.

The league holds practices and games at , where they brought life back to a little-used field. Cassidy said that involved sprucing up an aging scoreboard by painting it with a little Panther blue and replacing at least 50 light bulbs.

"The one thing that has been humbling for me is I have met a lot of great people. Every time I turn around, someone wants to help," Cassidy said.

The league also offers non-competitive cheerleading, which he said has been a draw for those seeking the recreational side of it.

The league strives to keep costs low, at $150 for cheer and $275 for football, which includes uniforms. About 10-12 percent of the kids are on scholarship, Cassidy said.

The Murrieta Panthers host playoffs beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday at Linfield Christian School, 31950 Pauba Road, Temecula.

The 5 to 6-year-olds play the Fontana Junior Rebels at 8 a.m., followed by 8 and under against the Moreno Valley Ducks at 10 a.m., 10 and under against the Rancho Belago Ravens at noon and 12 and under against the San Luis Rey Trojans at 2 p.m.

Admission is $3.

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