East Bay Guardians prep for 2017 semi-pro football season

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Football season doesn’t necessarily end with the Super Bowl.

Semi-pro season in Northern California is set to get underway with two leagues, the Pacific Coast Football League (PCFL) and the West Coast Football Alliance (WCFA) kicking off this month throughout Northern California.

The semi-pro football scene is made up of players from all ranks—former high school stars to ex-college and pro players. Most of them are playing for the love of the game, but some of them, usually the younger guys, look to get noticed on game film to go pro somewhere – usually in indoor football leagues or American football leagues that play overseas. Others, the older or veteran players, play to stay in shape and, more often than not, to be with the rest of the guys on the field.

The teams usually charge $10 admission for their games, with the money going toward the organization to help cover their expenses, which are usually field rental fees.

Teams like the East Bay Guardians, formerly known as the Alameda County Knights, have been a staple in the semi-pro scene in Oakland for decades, along with the Bay Area Aztecs, formerly known as the Richmond War Angels, who won the PCFL title in 2011.

The PCFL started their season last weekend with the Aztecs losing 10-6 to the California Sundevils in Chico. The WCFA opens their 2017 campaign on Saturday as the Guardians take the field against the Stanislaus Cardinals at Castlemont High School at 1 p.m. Both teams won’t play one another this season, unless both come together for a summer charity game, as some teams do after their respective league years end.

The Guardians, led by owner Mitch Lockett, are finishing up their training camp in preparations for their season opener on Saturday. Training camp has been “going pretty good,” Lockett said. “We got new leadership out here. The team’s looking good and pretty strong.”

Semipro football is a very high-risk, low-reward sport. It’s full-contact, 11-on-11 football with referees, plays and four 15-minute quarters. But the players are paid very little—or nothing at all. Most players work a full-time job through the day then go to practice at night. Teams also don’t have their own stadiums or facilities, forcing them to use high school fields or public sports fields as their practice and home fields.

“Being on the football field with the guys, it’s a stress reliever,” Guardians’ running back Angelo Jeffery said. “There’s no other place I’d rather be right now.”

For more on sports, follow Jeff Weisinger on Twitter at @MrWeisGuy.

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