When the Redondo Beach Pop Warner Mitey Mite White team gathered for the first time last August, there were a lot of questions running through the minds of the players, not to mention the coaching staff.
In his first season as a head coach, Mike Wunderli was pondering ways of handling a group of 8-to-10-year-old players while 19 of the 23 athletes were competing in tackle football for the first time.
Yet the team came together to complete an undefeated season at 11-0 that included a championship in the Los Angeles County Conference with a 30-16 victory over Carson West and a 32-6 win against the Temecula Battling Bears in the Palomar Mitey Mite Bowl on Nov. 3.
“It was a thrill and a privilege to be part of such a magical season,” Wunderli said. “To go 11-0 and win the championship in the highly competitive LA County Pop Warner Conference is a real tribute to the work ethic, heart, and teamwork of these amazing kids, most of whom are first-year players. The opportunity to play home games and the championship game at Redondo Union’s first-rate varsity stadium is an experience that these boys, their parents, and the coaching staff will never forget.”
Hermosa Beach resident Kiefer Thuotte said he enjoyed his first experience playing any type of organized football.
“I never played flag football but I liked making tackles and executing the plays properly,” Thuotte said. “My favorite memory of the season was when we scored with 30 seconds left in the championship game against Carson and I knew we were going to win.”
While the risks of football-related injuries have inundated the media in recent years, Thuotte’s father has seen the benefits his son has gained from playing the sport.
“It was a great overall experience for Kiefer,” Thuotte said. “From learning a lot about football to having to push himself physically, making new friends and really becoming part of a ‘football family.’ I was impressed by the amount of hard work and dedication I saw my son and all the kids put in. The coaches were awesome. They put in an unbelievable amount of time and created a tremendous atmosphere. My hat’s off to them.”