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The blitz is on for the Battle

Soto takes Del Oro’s military-inspired week personally as third annual event ramps up
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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Mark Soto is in the mortgage business, spent countless days over the past 15 years as a football coach and is now putting in long hours to prepare for the Battle at the Capital football festivities in Loomis on Labor Day weekend. His most unlikely role — documentary film maker — is now drawing national attention to his cause. Soto is aiming to raise $250,000 for Wounded Warriors, a non-profit organization that benefits wounded military personnel and their families. A high school football extravaganza at Del Oro High is the main event. But the football-filled weekend is getting a boost from Soto’s hour-long video called “The Day Remembered.” Del Oro football coach Casey Taylor linked up with Soto last year and their shared passion for supporting veterans made them quick friends. Soto is the father of Corporal Joshua in the Marines and Sergeant Benjamin in the Army. His son-in-law Nick Brown is a Gunnery Sergeant in the Marines. Taylor’s father served in Vietnam. Soto agreed to take the reins of Battle at the Capital this year with the promise that all proceeds from the event would go to Wounded Warriors. The man with a constant smile and boundless energy is doing his part to make the event an unprecedented success. “I love it. I feel like I’m giving something back,” Soto said. “We’ve had some unbelievable stories. The director of football operations at Westlake (which will play Del Oro in the headliner game Sept. 3) called me and said, ‘Coach, we want to be a part of this thing.’ He just lost his son last year in Afghanistan. I put him in touch with (Taylor) and now we have two of the best programs in California playing each other.” Earlier this year, Soto set out to make a couple of short videos to promote Battle at the Capital with some soldiers at the Balboa Naval Hospital in southern California. After talking with a handful of injured veterans, Soto wound up with hours of compelling material that brings the realities of war into perspective. “We taped their stories and started compiling the information and realized we had much more than little video snippets,” said Soto, who has been an assistant coach at Granite Bay and Del Oro. “We realized we had stories of marines injured in battle, recovering from wounds and dealing with amputations. Two years ago they were varsity football players and now they’re sitting there with one arm because they were fighting for our freedom.” “The Day Remembered” is now available at the Battle at the Capital website and national media is taking interest. The San Diego Union Tribune ran a front-page story on the wounded veterans and their involvement in the film. On Wednesday, Soto was interviewed for a story that will air on National Public Radio in the coming weeks. Soto said the film has projected Battle at the Capital to more than just a weekend of great competition. “It’s not just about Del Oro and football anymore,” he said. “People see the cause and they’re getting behind it. Athletes love playing for a cause. Parents like that they’re paying for a good cause. It’s snowballing. Every day I have sponsors calling to be a part of it. It’s become that big.” Soto is already lining up the schedule for the 2012 Battle at the Capital, which he said will take place in southern California. He promises there will be some football powerhouses involved. For more information, or to purchase, “The Day Remembered,” check out www.battleatthecapital.com.