Youth team top squad in the land
One Tonganoxie football team posted a record many National Football League teams would love to have.
The Tonganoxie Braves fifth-grade youth football team finished the fall season with a 14-1 record. That's one game shy of the NFL's 16-game regular season.
The Braves finished their regular season of the Kaw Valley Youth Football League with an umblemished record. The team also won the Kaw Valley Superbowl by defeating Turner -- another undefeated squad -- 6-0.
Many of the games were played at Field of Dreams, which is northeast of Basehor.
The Braves finished the season by playing in last weekend's Midwest State Championship in Lawrence. The tournament, sponsored by National Youth Sports Sanctioning Organization, included a 16-team field. Tonganoxie played Silver Lake on Friday at a youth sports complex in Lawrence. Portable lights were brought in for the game, which was Tonganoxie's first night game of the season. Silver Lake handed Tonganoxie its first loss of the season, 28-0. Tonganoxie, however, bounced back on Saturday with an exciting win against a team from Ankeny, Iowa, a suburb of Des Moines.
The two teams were tied, 6-6, at the end of regulation. In the first overtime, Tonganoxie elected to kick for the extra points and led 14-6. In youth football, kicking after a touchdown is worth two points, as is a passing play. A running play is worth one point. Although in higher levels of football place-kick plays are worth a point and running and passing plays are worth two points after touchdowns, the point system is different in youth football because kicking the ball and passing are more difficult than running the ball at that age.
Ankeny tied the game at 14 and forced a second overtime. Tonganoxie scored in the second overtime and led, 20-14, after their second kick was unsuccessful. Ankeny looked to tie and potentially win the game on their possession. On their third play of their possession in double overtime, though, they fumbled the ball and Tonganoxie recovered, ending the game.
Tonganoxie finished the tournament with a 1-1 record. Silver Lake won the Lawrence tournament.
Other teams that were on Tonganoxie's side of the bracket were: the Hays Chiefs, Abilene Junior Cowboys, West Des Moines (Iowa) Lions, Topeka Buccaneers and the Phillipsburg Cowboys.
Coach Mike Sample said the team put together a strong season.
"I did not expect them to go undefeated in the league and win the Superbowl," Sample said. "I figured we'd lose one or two games, just from last year's record to this year."
Last season, the Braves tied for first in the league. In the playoffs, the team won the first game and lost the second as fourth-graders, finishing the season with a 9-3 record.
Sample has been coaching the team since they were first-graders. In the first and second grades, the team competed in flag football, but started tackle football in third grade.
He has coached five of the players since first grade, while a majority of the players have competed for Sample since third grade.
Also coaching this year for the Braves were Bobby Kissinger, Terry Holloway, Mark Snyder and Keith Quarles. The team started practicing at the beginning of August.
During the preseason, the Braves practiced three times a week. When the season got under way, the team practiced twice a week.
"It's just amazing from the first year coaching them until now how much they have improved," Sample said. "Even when we did the flag in first and second (grades). We had good records, but it's gotten better ever since then."
Interestingly enough, Sample also was on a Tonganoxie team that won a championship when he was a fifth-grader.
In 1978, Tonganoxie won what was then called the Toy Bowl at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence. At that time, Tonganoxie played with teams from Lawrence in that league.
Now, Sample's son, Chase, has a championship to his credit, although it's now called the Superbowl rather than the Toy Bowl.
Sample told his team before their Superbowl game against Turner about his accomplishment, and he told their parents after the game.
"The parents thought it was real neat," Sample said, adding that the players did, too.
Defensively, the Braves shut out their opponents 10 times, while scoring at least 24 points six times.
In two games, the squad scored more than 30 and in two others, the team scored 40 or more.
"That's kind of amazing there," Sample said of the 10 shutouts.
Sample will coach the squad one more year in youth football as sixth-graders next fall. But, he'll continue to coach them in junior high, as he also is a coach at that level.
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