In the first round of the Youth National Championship Tournament the Turlock Vikings were pitted against the Texas Wrecking Crew, an All-Star team twice their size. The majority of those who face the Wrecking Crew quit by halftime but Turlock stuck it out on Tuesday, doing their best to compete in the 30-0 loss.
“That team is made up of players who play all year,” Vikings head coach Ted Howze said. “They were big kids and were incredibly fast on the field.”
Although Turlock came up short against the Texas team the game served as a wakeup call for the players and gave them motivation for the rest of the tournament.
“The best way to describe it is they were shell shocked. We had to call a timeout, set the kids down and tell them to play basic football,” Howze said. “The kids responded. The score didn’t reflect how well we played the team.”
With their first experience in a national tournament behind them the Vikings entered the second round on Wednesday, determined to display their brand of football against another All-Star team, the Montana Eagles. The Eagles, a team selected from over 300 players and five states, were no match for the emboldened Vikings; as Turlock went on to win 29-0.
“We came out and physically man-handled the All-Star team from Montana,” Howze said. “They absolutely stepped up.”Touchdown runs from Lucas Curtis, Jordan Porter and Tyler Etharidge and tough defensive play from linebackers Jaxson Gonsalves and Brenden Patterson helped the Vikings secure the second round win. The win caught the attention of spectators, coaches and tournament directors who were impressed with the Viking performance.
“The Texas coach told me that our team played great for a team that only plays during a regular season,” Howze said.
Unfortunately, Turlock was unable to compete in the third round of the tournament as many teams either dropped out of the tournament or were bumped to a different age group due to the high level of competition.
Despite the scheduling conflict, the players, parents and coaches left the tournament with a sense of success and plans for the future. The Vikings, and TYF organization as a whole, will consider entering tournaments closer to home like Las Vegas.
“It’s a monumental task organizationally,” Howze said. “But by the end of next season we should be rested and ready to put a team together.”
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