The inaugural Law Enforcement Torch Run Unified flag football tournament brought together 160 Special Olympics Southern California athletes and local law enforcement officers over the weekend, and two teams were left standing heading into Sunday afternoon’s championship game.
LAPD Operations West Bureau Badgers claimed the trophy, outlasting OC Lawmen in a 16-6 contest at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The game was played prior to that evening’s NFL showdown between the Los Angeles Rams and the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, and all 16 teams who participated in the tournament were recognized on the 5-yard line prior to the game.
The champions also had the honor of lighting the Coliseum’s torch that sits above the peristyle to signal the game’s kickoff.
The teams were divided into groups of 10 – five Special Olympics Southern California athletes and five officers working together as one. The tournament started the day prior at Drake Stadium on the UCLA campus, and sponsors of the event included the Rams and TV company TCL.
The teams were represented by officers and sheriffs from across Los Angeles, as well as El Monte, Orange County, Redlands and Ventura.
Eddie Herrera, an officer with the Redlands Police Department, said the experience of competing alongside the athletes was “humbling and makes you realize how you can take some of the little things for granted.”
“You can definitely tell how excited they are and how much commitment they have,” he added. “They’re all here because they love football and that’s obviously why we’re here as well.
“I think this is the perfect type of event because it’s a bonding event.”
Through sponsorships and peer-to-peer fundraising, the event raised $18,500. Herrera and his team, the Redlands Five-OH, was the top fundraiser.
In addition, Rams tight end Tyler Higbee selected Special Olympics as his beneficiary of the NFL’s “My Cause, My Cleats” promotion, which featured more than 800 players highlighting various causes on custom cleats that will be auctioned off.
In weeks 13-15 of the 2018 season, 800+ #NFL players are highlighting causes on cleats being auctioned for charity during “My Cause, My Cleats”. Tyler Higbee of the #LARams chose #SpecialOlympics to be his beneficiary!https://t.co/vgDepeJNQr#Rams #Fundraiser #LookingBack pic.twitter.com/EFBYkB1k7L
— Special Olympics SoCal (@SOSoCal) December 16, 2018
“A big congrats to @LAPDWestBureau for the big win in the #flagfootball @SOSoCal @SoCalTorchRun tournament highlighted today by the great partnership with @RamsNFL joining athletes on the field & watching the flame 🔥 light up the stadium @LAPDHollenbeck @LAPDALopez @LAPDRampart” pic.twitter.com/tIK9utX6X9
— LAPDAlLabrada (@LabradaAl) December 17, 2018
Volunteer Julia Hienz contributed to this report.