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Super Bowl 58 in Las Vegas

Wade Vandervort

Fans who were gifted free Super Bowl LVIII tickets from the Las Vegas Raiders, from left, Nikko Lopez, Pam Sloan, Vince Kristosik, Sandy Sears, Lance Nighswonger, Matt Nighswonger, Patrick Achord and Chris Sawyers pose for a photo during Super Bowl LVIII at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024.

Sunrise Mountain High football coach Chris Sawyers received a pair of Super Bowl tickets from the Raiders last week.

He promptly told his wife, Brandi, that they would be going to the game. A few days later, Brandi Sawyers had another idea: Assistant coach Patrick Achord would take her place.

Sawyers and Achord coached Sunrise Mountain to the Class 4A state championship game last fall, finding their niche mentoring children from working-class families in northeast Las Vegas.

Achord was born and raised in that part of the Las Vegas Valley, frequently passing on head coaching jobs to remain by Sawyers’ side at Sunrise Mountain.

Sawyers was the Raiders’ coach of the year for Sunrise Mountain’s memorable run. The efforts of Achord, Sawyers said, was equally admirable.

“My wife said, ‘He deserves to go,’” Chris Sawyers said. “He’s been there with me for it all.”

The franchise also gave a pair of Super Bowl tickets to Matt Nighswonger, the girls flag football coach at Shadow Ridge, Vince Kristosik with the Southern Nevada Officials Association and Pam Sloan, the director of athletics for the Clark County School District.

That sat together in the 400 section for the Chiefs’ 26-22 overtime victory against the 49ers.

Props to the Raiders for recognizing the impact of these individuals in bringing the beautiful game of football to a diverse group of Las Vegas teens.

Take Nighswonger, who also serves as the head of the girls flag football coaches’ association and has been instrumental in growing the game in CCSD. When girls flag football was launched in the early 2010s, Las Vegas was one of the only cities offering it on the high school level.

Now, most teams have three levels of teams, and other school districts nationally are mimicking our model for advancing the game. The Raiders are front and center leading the charge, whether by running camps at their facility in Henderson or being there on game day with a check to buy supplies.

Getting to take his 11-year-old son Lance to the Super Bowl is a father-son memory that the family won’t forget, coach Nighswonger said.

“People always ask why I am a Raiders fan,” Nighswonger said. “This is why. They’ve done so much for (youth football) here.”

Sloan said she received a phone call from Myles Hayes, the Raiders’ director of youth football, in 2020 offering to make a donation of football equipment. The Raiders wound up bringing boxes of cleats to Las Vegas schools in low-income areas.

Later, the Raider provided new helmets to another school.

And each summer, they host a passing league tournament for schools in their air-conditioned practice facility.

“Myles Hayes and his team have just been so generous since they came to town,” said Sloan, who brought her adult son, Nikko Lopez, to the Super Bowl.

Prep football coaches in CCSD last year received a stipend of about $3,500 for what’s become a 12-month job working with our city’s teens. High school referees make less than $73.50 a game for varsity games.

The cheapest ticket to Super Bowl 58 was $7,000, meaning Kristosik would have to shell out his income on Friday nights for roughly the past 15 years for a pair of tickets to the big game. He brought his friend, Sandy Sears.

Thanks to the Raiders, they found themselves at Allegiant for the most historic sporting moment in our town’s history.

Kristosik doubles as the head of the Southern Nevada Officials Association. After the pandemic, they saw their roster of referees cut by about 30%, as most found other hobbies during the shutdown.

Kristosik coordinated an outreach program with College of Southern Nevada to help enhance their ranks, not only recruiting new officials but also training them. Populating the ranks has been his primary focus the last three years.

Kristosik works football, basketball, baseball and softball games. Some days, he spends more money on gas than his game check.

But he never complains, saying, “I love (my jobs) in sports. It’s a privilege to be involved with kids and helping this community.”

Kristosik didn’t want the spotlight on Sunday. He said it belonged to Mark Perlman, who worked the Super Bowl as a line judge. Perlman got his start in the local association in 1979, and his brothers and sisters in the association are brimming with pride that one of their own was working a game of such significance in the home stadium.

The Super Bowl being in town this week reaffirmed what we long knew about football: It’s a spectacular game that brings millions of people together.

For many, that passion starts at local high schools, which is why the Raiders’ activity in making the game more accessible has been one of their greatest contributions to our city.

The private-public partnership to build the nearly $2 billion Allegiant Stadium was also pretty significant because it brought us the awesomeness of a come-from-behind overtime victory for the Chiefs. What a game.

And what a day for four leaders in our prep sports community.

Article written by #LasVegasSun

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