(Posted Dec. 16, 2017)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
An all-star team of 8- and 9-year-olds made its mark on the gridiron this fall, taking home two titles, including the Midwest National Youth Football Championship.
“It’s the first time to anyone’s knowledge that an all-star team has been assembled (locally),” said Matthew Herd who, with other coaches in the London Area Boys Football League came up with the idea. “We felt there was a core group of boys who were extremely talented and thought we could go around the state and do very well.”
Herd and co-coach Nate Moore hand-picked 16 players from London and one from West Jefferson to play on the London 9U All-Star team. The group started practice one week after the regular league season ended in late October. They then competed on all four weekends in November.
In their first bout, the London All-Stars beat three-time defending champions, the Franklin Wildcats, 28-0 to win the Franklin Fall Classic in southwest Ohio. London held the Wildcats not only to zero points but also to zero first downs.
The next two contests, the Pic-Town Gridiron Classic in Pickerington and the Monster Invitational in Grove City, were learning experiences, Herd said. London managed one win in Pickerington, no small feat as the only 9U team entered in a 10U event.
“I firmly believe that this (Pickerington) tournament is where the boys realized they could play with bigger kids,” Herd said. London’s biggest player weighed 123 pounds; the other teams fielded players who weighed as much as 170 pounds. “That tourney definitely built character, which helped once we got to Canton.”
The Midwest National Youth Football Championships were held in Canton on Thanksgiving weekend. London competed in the 105-pound 9U division. (All players had to weigh less than 105 pounds. Weigh-in took place the night of Thanksgiving.)
London dominated the competition, beating Michigan’s Westland Meteors 19-0 and Ohio’s Liberty Leopards 18-0 to take the championship title. The Meteors notched no first downs. The Leopards had been undefeated in nearly three years of play.
Herd hopes to see the All-Stars back next fall.
“If I have my way, we’ll do it with two teams next year, both weight divisions–instructional (8U) and Division I (10U),” he said.
This year, Travis Brown, Gracie Jones, David Roby and Jason Stevens served as assistant coaches.
This year’s all-stars were: Braxton Brown, Levi Butin, Jaydon Cooper, Stevie Gravely, Mason Grider, Curtis Herd, Traivon Howard, Logan Lanter, Noah Moore, Brody Neal, Daequan Parks, Blake Reay, Colten Roby, Aiden Schrader, Coltenn Sexton, Jacob Stahl and Gavin Vasey.