Jim Camitz, 81, of Pittsburg, holds a photograph of himself with members of the 1963 Pop Warner football team that he coached while at his home in
Jim Camitz, 81, of Pittsburg, holds a photograph of himself with members of the 1963 Pop Warner football team that he coached while at his home in Pittsburg, Calif., on Monday, Oct. 21, 2013. Pittsburg's 1963 Pop Warner football league's national championship is the subject of a "Thrown for a Loss: The Story of the 1963 Mallards," a documentary film that will have its premiere on November 24 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the event. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)

PITTSBURG -- The team won, but the end game was so bittersweet. Fifty years ago, the boys on Pittsburg's 1963 Pop Warner football team were headed to play in the national championship and enjoy a pregame breakfast with President John F. Kennedy at the White House.

The assassination, however, changed those plans, and instead of meeting the president, team members attended his funeral the day before the planned breakfast. Four days after the funeral, the team became the Pop Warner national champion for the 12-to-14-year-old age group after defeating the eastern division champs, the Mayfair Athletic Club.

Those dramatic elements led Jonathan Chavez, a football fan and history buff with a particular interest in the Kennedy presidency, to make a documentary film.

"With all of those things, I saw the story coming together," said Chavez, a 62-year-old Richmond native who now lives in Simi Valley and works in the television industry.

"This is a personal story of what happened to the players and the coach and what effect (the assassination) had on them," Chavez said.

Called "Thrown for a Loss: The Story of the 1963 Pittsburg Mallards," the 50-minute film will premiere Nov. 24 at the California Theatre at a sold-out event to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the game.

Team members and coach Jim Camitz, an 81-year-old Pittsburg resident who goes by Smiley, will be among those attending the gathering. It will recognize team members from 1961 to 1964, the years Camitz coached the team he founded in 1961. A special tribute will also acknowledge Camitz.

About 90 boys, including players from the 1961 and 1962 rosters, in addition to the 1963 team, left for the game after Kennedy was shot. It was decided the game would go on after Camitz and his two assistant coaches conferred with the league's board of directors.

Camitz recalls the boys donning suits and ties for Kennedy's funeral.

"Our kids made an impression on people from all over the country. It was 'yes ma'am and no ma'am,' " he said. "I got the team together and said we've gotten this far. Let's go win the football game for John-John (Kennedy's son). Let's go play for President Kennedy."

Pittsburg prides itself on its diversity, a quality that was reflected in the 1963 team.

"They were just unbelievable and dedicated to the game of football. ... There were the blacks, the Mexicans, the Greeks, the Italians. There was no color then," Camitz said.

Larry Rodriguez, a 63-year-old Brentwood resident who played offensive and defensive tackle on the 1963 team, remembers arriving in Washington, D.C., the morning of Kennedy's funeral.

"They bused us straight to the funeral. It was tough. I was 13 years old, and it was sad," he said. "We were able to see all the dignitaries walking behind the casket. It was a dark time in the United States."

Jim Camitz, 81, of Pittsburg, from left, and Frank Myers, 63, of Pittsburg, glance through a scrapbook of the 1963 Pop Warner football team that Camitz
Jim Camitz, 81, of Pittsburg, from left, and Frank Myers, 63, of Pittsburg, glance through a scrapbook of the 1963 Pop Warner football team that Camitz coached in Pittsburg, Calif., on Monday, Oct. 21, 2013. Myers was 14 years old when he played for Camitz when they won the national championship. Pittsburg's 1963 Pop Warner football league's national championship is the subject of a "Thrown for a Loss: The Story of the 1963 Mallards," a documentary film that will have its premiere on November 24 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the event. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)

But the team knew it had a job to do. "And you focused completely on the game," Rodriguez said of the game played in pouring rain in Philadelphia that resulted in a 33-0 victory over Mayfair.

Chavez has used home movies, including footage of Kennedy's funeral and photos provided by locals, in addition to conducting interviews with players, local residents, a cheerleader and Camitz, among others, to help tell the story in the documentary.

Chavez is pitching the film to "Truly California," a local PBS show. Former Pittsburg City Councilman Bob Lewis and his brother, Tom, are on a committee that organized the film premiere.

Chavez approached the Lewis brothers about doing a documentary after learning they spearheaded an effort that resulted in Pittsburg installing signs in 2005 alongside northbound Kirker Pass Road, where the city border starts, and on eastbound Highway 4 between Bailey Road and Railroad Avenue, to commemorate the team's 1963 win.

"He was just captivated by the story," said Bob Lewis, who went to school with some of the players. "This story will capture, it will reach out and grab you. We've worked with him for the last seven years to get the documentary done."

Tom Lewis also wrote a screenplay several years ago. "It hasn't made it to the big screen. Maybe the documentary will lead to (a movie)," he said.

Contact Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her on Twitter.com/EastCounty_Girl.