While many families across the Commonwealth enjoyed a turkey dinner with family last week, one local youth football team was busy in Florida defending a national title. But the team’s athletic prowess wasn’t the only push that led them to the panhandle.
The Virginia Winston 49ers took home third place in the American Youth Football League’s Eastern national championship in Daytona last week, and now qualify to compete in Las Vegas next year. They lost the title to the Kings County Chiefs.
“We didn’t reach our goal,” head coach Brad Davis said. “But we were happy that the community helped us out.”
The team went 1-1, losing 24-14 to the Illinois Bolts and winning 36-6 against the Vienna Steelers.
Davis said the first game came down to the wire and the team ultimately fell short. But it’s what he calls “49ers football” that allowed them to grab the win for the second game.
“It’s aggressive and being fundamentally sound,” Davis said. “It’s doing what the coach is telling them to do, and not doing what they want to do.”
For 10-year-old running back Ty Quan Glover, rushing the ball down the field is what it’s all about.
“It’s a wonderful feeling and it gives me a chance to run people over, juke and stuff.” Glover said.
9-year-old quarterback Brad “Lil Brad” Davis-Wilson said he was nervous going into the first game.
“They were humungous,” Davis-Wilson said about the opponents.
Despite the loss, players like Glover and Davis-Wilson said they had a blast just being in Florida.
“We got to get in the pool, go to a beach house and get on watersides,” Glover said. “We played hockey … we were on the Playstation playing Madden together.”
But all the fun a 10-year-old could have didn’t erase being away from family on Thanksgiving in Glover’s mind.
“I was sad that my mom wasn’t there,” Glover said.
The road to the championship game began when the team lost the state championship by a point against the Dulles Patriots Nov. 6, still qualifying to compete nationally. After that, one parent recognized the serious need to reach out to the community so they could afford the trip.
Josh Langhorne helps the team’s fundraising efforts. Langhorne’s son, Aven, plays cornerback on the team.
Langhorne set up a GoFundMe page that raised almost $3,000 for the trip and organized helmet drives weekly at Newtown Road.
“Most of the parents on the team run single-family homes, have low income and don’t have the financial capacity to put up what’s needed to run this organization,” Langhorne said.
“We said at our last meeting ‘we need to make $200 a day to pull this thing off,’ which seemed impossible. But with the GoFundMe, it just all came through.”
The Sunday before the team left, a donor from Texas gave the team $1,000. Langhorne credits his son Tristan’s visual media creation to the success of the team’s crowd funding efforts.
Looking at next year’s tournament in Las Vegas, Glover and Davis-Wilson said they are ready to get better.
“I might come back faster and stronger next year,” Glover said. “I might run around the neighborhood more and exercise.”
Davis said he wants the team to have more community involvement.
“We’re going to raise money to get back out there, to give these kids something different than just being around Virginia,” Davis said. “The goal is not just about football, its to take some kids who wouldn’t normally get a chance to experience going out of town … it’s a chance to see things they may never see in their life.”