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By Zach Cavanagh

A football team is a community. It’s a family.

When members of the family are in need, the community rallies to support them.

The South Coast JV Dolphins youth football team has rallied not once or twice but four times this season to bring aid to members of its football family. The Dolphins are also trying to rally their surrounding community to grow the program in the coming years.

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The first bits of rallying came out of trying circumstances.

Each season, a “tackle jar” is passed around at games to the parents, and when the team scores or does something worth a cheer, the parents put a dollar or two into the jar. At season’s end, the money in the jar usually goes toward something for the kids.

However, instead of the money going towards some sort of treat or reward, the JV Dolphins are putting the money towards three higher causes.

All very recently, three families in the program lost three girls: one to a rare cancer, another to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and a third to epilepsy.

So the boys are coming together and will donate their “tackle jar” money to the Pediatric Cancer Foundation for Rhabdomyosarcoma, the SIDS Healing Hearts Foundation and the Epilepsy Support Group of Orange County.

Then on Wednesday, Oct. 17, the boys’ families came together to support two volunteer coaches that give so much time and effort to the kids.

Brothers Joshua Walker and Jacob Knox moved to south Orange County from St. Louis five years and one year ago, respectively. The brothers were without a car and would take the bus, catch rides and call Ubers to get everywhere including practices.

Knox is also going to school and playing basketball at Bethesda University in Anaheim. Knox would have to grab a 6 a.m. bus to get to an on-campus practice at noon. He would then take classes and not be home until 8 p.m. Knox said he also worked overnights occasionally as well.

With the help of parents pitching in and a car available from one of the player’s 92-year-old great-grandmother, the team was able to purchase a car for Walker and Knox and surprised them with it at practice on Wednesday.

“Just gratitude, man,” Walker said. “I come out here because I just love the game. To get a gift for doing something I love, it’s just a privilege. Being from St. Louis, Missouri, me and my brother moved here, so this is our family. For them to do that just puts a cherry on top.”

Walker came to California to play football at Saddleback College. After his time at Saddleback, Walker was looking for a purpose and happened into coaching youth football while working at the Mission Viejo Mall.

“I was confused, and I said that morning, ‘God, tell me where I want to go. Tell me what you want me to do and I’ll do it,’” Walkers said. “A lady came in to our store, and she coaches through San Clemente and through different organizations. She was talking to me about coaching and she said, ‘If you want to ever coach with my team, come on down.’ I saw that as a sign. The other coach from the pee wee team had just left, and it was like destiny, seriously.”

Walker has taken to coaching and loves the team he gets to work with.

“I left (playing) football and got here and found a greater love in coaching,” Walker said. “You move boys past little small things and change them into men. It’s just unbelievable, man.”

Coach Terri Anderson, along with Walker and Knox, are part of an improving JV Dolphins team that is trying to grow the program as a feeder team for Dana Hills High School like those in San Clemente and Mission Viejo.

Two years ago, Jason Allemann, former principal at Dana Hills, and Adam Boskovich fought to have that feeder team. They don’t envision having the numbers to form their own group completely away from South Coast Youth Football San Clemente, but they are trying to build at least three levels of teams. With three teams, they would be able to host games at Dana Hills High School instead of playing their games in San Clemente.

Those at the helm of the JV Dolphins believe part of the problem is awareness with the SCYF name being attached to San Clemente and many kids that will eventually play football at Dana Hills that live in Laguna Niguel choose to play in the Saddleback Valley football system with other kids that move on to play at Aliso Niguel, Mission Viejo, Laguna Hills and El Toro High Schools among others.

“Dana is in a great city,” Walker said, “but a lot of powerhouse football teams are around. So it’s hard for them to gain traction, but I’ve committed to the youth. Get the youth right and push them through Dana and let’s hope things go right.”

But the group is on their way.

The JV Dolphins are 5-3 this season after only one win a season ago and none the year before. The Dolphins won their first playoff game at La Habra on Monday, Oct. 15 and travel to Lakewood on Saturday, Oct. 20 to keep this roll going.

“Everybody wants to win, but they don’t see the hard work that goes into winning,” Walker said. “To have them win, it just pays off everything. It shows me what we’re doing changes the kids and its’s an impact. It gives joy.”

All in all, the Dolphins football family is putting its best foot forward. They are giving and winning and hope to see all their good deeds pay off with faith in the right places.

“We truly know we have someone that’s not our own blood,” Knox said. “Just to have the family, the community behind us. It’s amazing.”

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