Jeff Grant, a Costa Mesa resident, helped coordinate referees for games at the Daily Pilot Cup.

Jeff Grant, a Costa Mesa resident, helped coordinate referees for games at the Daily Pilot Cup. (Kyle Burlington / Daily Pilot)

The Daily Pilot Cup, the youth soccer tournament, was at its biggest in its 11th year.

The soccer extravaganza in Costa Mesa featured 201 teams representing 30 schools. Close to 2,500 children competed with their classmates in this special event.

While it's true the tournament is all about the kids. It would not be made possible without all the help involved.

Pilot Cup director Kirk McIntosh likes to point out that the six-day tournament is run by volunteers. They're not paid, he reminds you.

One of the most valuable volunteers is referee coordinator Jeff Grant.

The Costa Mesa resident officiates several games and recruits other referees to help during the week, working games for free.

With nearly 300 games to cover, Grant and the Pilot Cup referees were plenty busy. The tournament website helped with organization, but Grant was still working his phone and sending e-mails to make sure every game was covered.

It brings relief to McIntosh. There was chaos before Grant came along.

McIntosh heard stories of some games that had to be officiated by a parent of a player. In the past, the start of other games were delayed because there were no referees. That threw off the rest of the day's schedule.

Now every game has officials. Most of the championship games had three referees. This year, also had an added feature with a referee. Former NBA player Michael Cage made his return as a Daily Pilot Cup referee.

Grant was happy to recruit Cage and others.

McIntosh was relieved to have Grant help.

"Without him, I'm in trouble," McIntosh said of Grant. "He's a stalwart. With the refs, this tournament really struggles."

Grant, 55, said the majority of the referees don't have kids who are in the tournament. Grant is one of them. He has other reasons for helping.

"I enjoy watching the games," Grant said. "I enjoy working with the kids. I just have a fantastic time working with kids. When you work a game you have the best vantage point and you appreciate the skill level of the players."

Grant is grateful for the referees who volunteer for the tournament, but he made it a point to credit one in particular. Juan Hernandez has officated up to 25 games during the tournament. They call him, "Iron Man."

"He's probably the only guy who does more than me," Grant said.

Last year, a player tried to illegally compete for two Our Lady Queen of Angels teams at the Daily Pilot Cup.

This year, more controversy ensued. Killybrooke used a seventh-grade player during the second half of its boys' fifth- and sixth-grade silver division quarterfinal game against Victoria Saturday, Victoria Coach Michelle Thrall said.