By MATTHEW SHINKLE
If you were to describe the perfect football season for your kids, what would it entail? An undefeated regular season? Winning the league championship? What about a national championship?
One team from Deptford was able to do all three, and then some.
The Deptford Spartans freshman team in the South Jersey United Football League went undefeated this fall during the regular season, going 8-0 while averaging 31 points per game and shutting out opposing teams five times.
The team of 6 and 7 year olds went on to win the SJUFL Championship on Dec. 1 by defeating the Kingsway Dragons, 26-14.
The Sun previously reported the team was fundraising on GoFundMe, asking for the community’s support to make a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity come true for the kids it was invited to the World Youth National Championships at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
“They heard about our team and one of their reps came to one of our playoff games,” head coach Isaac Redman said. “I honestly didn’t think we’d be able to go, because you have to play in their regionals first and that was the same weekend as our championship [for the SJUFL].”
Regardless, the team received a direct invitation to compete in the tournament from Wednesday, Dec. 12 to Saturday, Dec. 16, and returned to New Jersey as national champions.
“I wasn’t surprised,” Redman said. “I knew we were going to win it.”
Nearly the entire team made the trip to Canton to represent South Jersey and compete for the championship. They were guaranteed at least two games during the week, and after a forfeit in the first round of the playoffs, the Deptford Spartans defeated a team from Delaware 31-0 in the semi-finals before defeating a team from the host state of Ohio, 14-13, to become the Unweighted 7U Champions.
Down 13-8 in the fourth quarter after a touchdown by the opposing Rams, Haiden Redman of the Spartans broke free for a 65-yard rushing touchdown on the first play of the drive that would clinch the championship for Deptford.
“It was gratifying that all this work they’d put in shows for something,” Isaac Redman said. “We started training them in the spring long before football started. We were able to show the kids that if you really work for something that this can be the result.”
Redman said the kids were in awe and shocked by how big the stadium was after getting to the field even before playing any of the games. Then, after having played through the tournament to win, the emotions started to flow from everyone.
“They were all so excited,” Redman said. “And I don’t think there was any kid on the field that wasn’t crying, you know, tears of joy. The coaches were crying, their kids were crying.”
After getting back to the locker room after having won the championship, Redman said nearly a dozen kids had the chance to address their teammates and the coaches to talk about their season and how thankful they were to have gone this far.
“It was just a real heartwarming moment,” Redman said. “That right there was probably the most memorable moment of the whole time there; when the kids got up and thanked the coaches at the end.”
Over the course of the few days in Canton, the kids also got the chance to tour the Pro Football Hall of Fame to take a look at the past and present of football. The weekend was also made complete with a surprise game of laser tag for the kids as well to celebrate the impromptu vacation.
“It was just a great weekend all around,” Redman said.