POLK COUNTY — It was a scramble, but seven Polk County sixth-grade football players will compete in a national tournament.
The sixth-grade Oregon team will compete in Seattle on Saturday and Sunday as part of the Football University National Championship.
The championship is an invitation-only tournament with regionals across the country.
“A good friend of mine, Rob Dean, asked me if I’d like to put together a sixth-grade youth team,” Tyke Murdock of Dallas, the coach of the team, said. “If I did, he’d let me do it and coach the kids for the next three years.”
The catch? Murdock had only weeks to make his roster.
“I pulled in kids from Kids, Inc. from Polk County,” Murdock said. “I tried to get some names from Pop Warner, and we have some kids from the Salem and Keizer areas on the team as well. I actually turned in the last of my forms on Monday.”
The sixth-grade squad is one of 64 teams scheduled to compete. The roster includes Kahl Murdock, Cael Morrison, Colton Richardson, Jeremy Beal, Luke Hess, John Hofenbredl and Dillon Stuhr, all from Dallas.
Oregon faces Columbian Basin of Washington in its first game. The winner will face the winner of Eastern Washington-Northern Idaho vs. Seattle.
“If we win our two games in Seattle, we move on to Utah,” Murdock said. “If we win two games in Utah, we move on to Florida for the national championship. It’s like the Little League World Series for football.”
Games will be broadcast live at www.fbunc.com as well as on ESPN3 and CBS Sports.
No matter what happens this year, Murdock said he will coach this group through their seventh- and eighth-grade years at the FBU national championship in the coming years.
But more importantly than the outcome of the team’s games, Murdock is hoping his team treasures the moment of playing on a stage grander than anything they’ve played on before.
“What’s cool about this weekend is I told the kids, you’re playing at a national level,” Murdock said. “Your name goes into a recruitment database. You get to have the opportunity to play at a level they would never have been able to play at. … The exposure and the experience and knowledge they’ll gain from this makes it exciting. Every second I’m thinking about new plays, and what we can do better.”