Youth taking field for family

There was no question the Modesto Broncos youth football organization would come to the aid of one of its own.

First-year player Lavin Matlock, 7, and his family lost their home in a fire Oct. 29. The family, including his three younger siblings and mother Renee, are staying with a relative.

The question Broncos president Matt Dietz had to answer was how to help in a way most effective and open to community involvement.

The Broncos varsity team will play the Central Saints squad Saturday at 7 p.m. in the "Holiday Bowl" at Modesto Christian High. Tickets are $5 each with all proceeds going to the Matlock family.

"I thought we had resources we can pull from and make this a win-win for everybody," Dietz said. "The community is coming together and doing something positive. A lot of leagues are coming in and lending support and volunteers."

Modesto Christian athletic director Greg Pearce offered the field at no cost for the game and practices. Field rental usually costs $575 a day. Referees donated their time. Dietz said the Atwater Falcons, Ceres Seahawks, Hilmar Packers and Oakdale Stampede youth football programs all donated money.

The Salida Steelers organized the "Man Up Bowl" last Saturday where coaches from 16 Central California League youth football organizations played each other to benefit three players' families, including the Matlocks.

With all the horror stories that make headlines in youth sports, Dietz said he hopes people see there's a lot of good, too. He's happy the players realize they can do things to help others and know their football family would assist them.

"The comments I've heard are, 'It's nice to know if something were to happen, we have an extended family to help us out,' Dietz said. "It makes them feel secure. They know we're about more than football and fundamentals. We take care of each other on and off the field."

The Broncos and the Saints represent two of the best seventh- and eighth-grade teams in the area. The Broncos won the Cen Cal League Super Bowl this season and the Saints made it to the semifinals after four years of championship seasons in the Trans-Valley Youth Football League.

Central Saints president Greg Johnson said the kids are excited to play another game and know they're doing it to help a family. The Saints are associated with Central Catholic High, whose student groups also raised money for the Matlocks.

Bins will be available at Modesto Christian High for canned goods, clothes and toys. Johnson said whatever the family doesn't need will be donated to other charitable organizations.