FOOTBALL: Cardinals ‘know what it takes’ after trip to national championships

 

In just their second season of competition, the junior pee wee
Cardinals advanced to the American Youth Football and Cheer
National Championships in Orlando, Fla., last week, and although
the 9-, 10- and 11-year-old gridders went 0-2, it was a

once in a lifetime experience,

offensive coordinator Fernando Rodriguez said.
HOLLISTER

The San Benito Cardinals are no longer wet behind the ears.

In just their second season of competition, the junior pee wee Cardinals advanced to the American Youth Football and Cheer National Championships in Orlando, Fla., last week, and although the 9-, 10- and 11-year-old gridders went 0-2, it was a “once in a lifetime experience,” offensive coordinator Fernando Rodriguez said.

“All in all, it was a good experience for the kids,” Rodriguez said. “They know what competition is out there now and know what it takes to be a champion.

“It was an experience of a lifetime for the kids and myself. It was definitely an eye-opener for what we want to achieve.”

The San Benito Cardinals were enjoying their inaugural season just last year, certainly a far cry from playing in a national tournament with 168 other teams in 16 different divisions.

San Benito was competing in the seven-team Division II. But coupled with Division I, the Cardinals were just one of 15 junior pee wee teams from across the country.

“Each kid on the team, even though we lost, we’re just excited to be out there competing,” head coach Donald Reyes said. “It was a privilege.”

The Cardinals were delivered some bad luck in their opening game, though. While some players arrived in Orlando on Friday night, the majority of the team flew into Florida on Saturday, unaware of their first game’s start time.

After flying across the country, San Benito opened the national championships against the Stafford Raiders of Virginia on Sunday morning at 10 a.m.

“But that was still a really good game,” Rodriguez said.

Stafford and San Benito battled back and forth before the Virginia football team grabbed a 14-7 lead in the fourth quarter. The Cardinals had one last chance to tie the game, and marched into Raider territory with three minutes remaining.

But dealt with a long fourth-and-12, San Benito fell short, while Stafford managed to run the clock out on its ensuing possession.

“We came up a little short in that game,” Rodriguez said.

In their second contest, the Cardinals squared off against the Brooklyn Renegades of New York, which delivered big play after big play against San Benito en route to a 36-6 victory.

“They big-played us,” Rodriguez said.

The offensive coordinator said Brooklyn had three long rushing touchdowns, while also returning both an interception and a punt to the end zone.

“But it was very exciting,” Reyes said. “The competition was very good over there. It was really extreme and competitive.

“But we really bonded as a family.”

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