By Jeremy McDonald
KEIZER, Ore.– The elements this time of the year can be really challenging in terms of trying to get a nice grip on the football.
There are only a handful of practices left before the sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade teams of Team Oregon travel to Canton, Ohio for the Hall of Fame Youth Football games on December sixth and seventh. Preparing for the teams they will be facing once they get there.
Sunday gave the squad a taste of what it may be like in Ohio with the wet weather and cool conditions that will challenge them mentally and physically.
Jesse Dyer, an eighth-grade Quarterback who played on the McNary TVYFL undefeated team this past season, took a bad snap and used his legs to keep the play alive. Working up the right side of the line to the sideline and turned up field.
“It’s good, making something out of nothing to get a first down,” said Dyer of the play. “It’s pretty good, it’s our last year before High School. McNary has never gone undefeated, so it’s pretty good to bring it here.”
“It does prepare us for how it’s going to be over there,” adds seventh-grade Running Back Tristan McGann from Dallas of the wet weather. “Odds are, it’s going to be way colder than it is here. A little rainier, so it’s going to make us get ready.”
Separated by their grade, they are the best of the best across the State. Kids from Medford, that come up for Sunday’s practices like the one they had at McNary High School Sunday, coming together to play with kids from Salem-Keizer, Sherwood, Sandy, Reynolds. Coaches from Tillamook, The Dalles, Portland and Salem-areas coach them.
“It’s going to help me because next year we’re going to seventh-grade, there’s going to be bigger kids and this is going to help us because there’s going to be way bigger kids in Ohio,” said Chase Dominguez, sixth-grader from the North Salem Youth Football team. “So it’ll help us get ready.”
Their community work leading into the Regional round acknowledged by the Hall of Fame personal that put on the event allowed them to go straight to Canton for at least two games. Win those back-to-back games, you’re on to December 8’s Semi-final game. Win that and you are in December 9’s Championship game.
And just because they have the extra time to prepare, doesn’t mean they’re taking it easy.
They practice twice-a-week. Once at Rex Putnam during the week and once at McNary on Sunday’s and the coaching staff are treating is as a High School practice. Reminding players to look at their practices on Hulu, study their playbooks and ask their coaches questions about plays. Coaching them as if they were in High School.
“They’re just trying to make us better for further on in the season and life during football,” said Ryder Cleveland, sixth-grade quarterback from the Sprague Youth Football team, of the coaching. “It’s going to be a little more experience on a different scale. Working on my technique, dropping back and throwing is all the stuff I need to work on really.”
They’ll be back at Putnam during the week for practice before returning to McNary next Sunday to work on special teams. Team Oregon will arrive in Ohio on December 5 for the opening ceremonies that night with their first game the next morning.