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Soto plans to expand football showcase/military tribute

He steps down from Battle for Veterans, forms The Honor Group with big vision for games, assemblies
By: Bill Poindexter, Roseville Press Tribune Sports Editor
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Mark “Coach” Soto is stepping down and moving up at the same time.

Soto on Sunday officially resigned as executive director of the Allegiant Battle for Veterans football games. He also has launched The Honor Group which, like the Battle for Veterans, will pay tribute to servicemen and women, on what Soto plans to be a national level.

“I wanted to expand outside this region,” Soto said Monday. “We’re pretty excited.”

Soto began the Battle at the Capital in 2010. What started as a weekend of local high school football games and activities intent on honoring veterans and Wounded Warriors later became known as the Battle for Veterans and included youth football games and the Battle of the Badges contest between Placer County and Nevada County Sheriff’s deputies. Last year, the battle spanned two weekends, hosted by Del Oro in Week Zero and played in Southern California the next weekend.

This year’s event will be scaled back in Northern California with 2014 planned for a blowout event.

In addition to the games, Soto said The Honor Group plans to hold a series of 30 high school assemblies, known as The School Honor Tour, “telling the students of America about what a true hero looks like. It’s not Batman, it’s not Ironman, it’s not Superman. It’s the military men and women who fought for our freedom.

“We plan on taking this across the nation,” he said.

Soto has assembled a team that includes Del Oro football coach Casey Taylor, Tony Asaro of Sacramento River Cats community relations, Character Combine founder Jason Harper, News10 Business Development Manager Dennis Williams, Sacramento attorney Nick Maloof and Granite Bay coach Rick Sutter.

“Every town and city has a veteran in need,” said Harper, whose Character Combine is a one-day session that trains coaches how to increase character on their teams. “We’re getting so many calls from the around the nation, (Soto) said, ‘Let’s launch this thing.’ Mark’s a great advocate for our military services.”

Taylor will help schedule games. Brian Webb of Brian Webb Design built the website www.thehonorgroup.org, and Soto described director of events Dan Armentrout as a “key architect” of Joe Weider’s health and fitness line.

School assemblies will include an honor guard, speeches from veterans, multimedia viewing and more.

Patty Schumacher also is on The Honor Group’s advisory council. Her son, Lance Cpl. Victor Dew, graduated from Granite Bay High School in 2008 and was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2010. Soto said Schumacher “has a lot of fire” and can “move walls.

“It’s important for kids to know what it feels like for a mom,” Soto said. “I just think America needs to hear that.”

The Honor Group also has developed an event known as Honor Week 7, a full week of support for veterans to be held in the seventh week of football season.

“We want our school to understand and appreciate the troops,” Taylor said in a news release. “We feel if we can take a week to honor our troops it’s totally worth it.”

Contact Bill Poindexter at billp@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at BillP_RsvPT.

 

ALLEGIANT BATTLE FOR VETERANS 2013

 

Friday, Aug. 30 (at Del Oro): 5 p.m., Battle of the Badges Bragging Rights, Placer Co. Sheriff’s vs. Nevada Co. Sheriff’s. 8 p.m., Del Oro vs. Union City-James Logan.

Friday, Sept. 6: Serra-Gardena at Oceanside.

Saturday, Sept. 7 (at Oceanside): Noon, Del Oro vs. Sherman Oaks-Notre Dame. 4 p.m., Upland vs. Westlake Village-Oaks Christian. 8 p.m, Ventura-St. Bonaventure vs. Corona-Centennial.