This weekend was the Pop Warner Championships at Autzen Stadium. Our undefeated team (representing the state champions of Oregon) made their way to the premiere game of the weekend - sizing up at the Sunday 6pm time slot against the undefeated team representing Washington State. I should note, though, that while they were undefeated in their regular schedule play, technically they had one loss in their season - when they faced us in mid-September. We beat them narrowly, 8-0, and for sure they were the toughest team we faced. It was going to be a test.
The weather was a chilly 48 degrees with plenty of rain coming down. Perfect! However, because we were at Autzen, we were able to position ourselves under the cover - and we all dressed in multiple layers bringing plenty of blankets and hand warmer packs.
Michele had her own method of keeping warm - she was definitely suffering from "Whitley Withdrawal" and had called dibs ahead of time to be able to hold her first. =)
Proud parents - and content to let Michele hold her for a while.
Ugh - my cell phone takes forever to actually click the picture, which often leads to blurriness, and there's just only so many times you feel like saying, "Sorry guys, let me try one more time".... This is Heather and her family friend, Jackson. Heather lives in a small "cottage" on Jackson's family's property. Jackson recently took state for his cross country run, a pinnacle achievement in his senior year at Sheldon.
If you watched the game last night for the Ducks, you probably saw this guy in a lot of pain. We were just moments home from the wedding to witness on "live time" (vs. DVR'd) tv the hit that caused him to ask to be substituted off the field to tend to an apparent hand injury. Later, he was able to return to the game, though it was painfully clear when he initially went to the sidelines just how much agony he was going through. So, it says a tremendous amount about his character when despite his painful recovery, he still managed to make it to the stadium to watch Brayden and his team play. (And for the record, Kenjon fully intends to play in Saturday's match-up against Stanford- the game ESPN has chosen for this week's "Game Day" program. It's a game we have tickets for the whole family to attend, and I'm sure glad we got them when we did as they are a scarcity around here selling for way more than the face-value price).
I sat next to Traig. This expression on his face is "Classic Traig" - a hint of a smile as he puts up with the altogether unnecessary requests of his aunt.
The game was competitive. There were lots of turnovers, and oh-so-many penalties (the refs were flag-happy). At halftime, we were down 8-0, and I had a scary feeling we'd face our first loss at this championship game. But, then (reminiscent of another team I watched this weekend), we came alive in the second half. Thanks in part to two TD's (one off of an interception) from Brayden's life-long buddy, Tanner Zenke, we were able to end the game with the win 22-14. Way to go!!!
Because this is my blog, and is not nearly as public as Facebook (so I can afford to be a little more critical), I'm going to give a shout-out to Vern, one of the assistant coaches on the team that works as "running back coordinator". He has a special place in his heart for Brayden and has been a big support to him over the last several seasons. He's the one that has fought for Brayden to be able to get some of the special plays he's been able to have - to give him the chance to prove himself despite being the littlest guy on the team. I just erased a long paragraph that I wrote that might be better left unmentioned...(God seems to be teaching me more and more that "saying less is often best!") - but, I'll wrap up this shout-out by saying if not for Vern this evening, I'm not sure if Brayden would have had the playing time he deserved. That's a key rule that can lead to serious consequences if not adhered to in Pop Warner - and I'm very thankful for the character Vern represented in making sure our team played with honor. (And, for the record, Brayden did great in his time on the field - even blocking their biggest player on a kick return).
So, the boys took the win. And so ends our adventures (outside of the end-of-year party in a week) with Pop Warner football. It's been a good run, but not without its tears, moments of anger (by Brayden or us), or even desire to quit. Offsetting that though, was some very special moments of pride and victory. Brayden's come a long way since his days as a fourth grader when he was practically toppling over with the weight of the pads on his small frame. For sure, it's been an entertaining sport to watch and attend games, and will always remind me of the many people Brayden had on his sidelines supporting him.
CONGRATULATIONS 8TH GRADE POP WARNER NORTHWEST CHAMPIONS!