A youth football team made history Saturday night when it became the first in Palm Beach Gardens to clinch a spot in the Pop Warner Super Bowl.
The team of 21 boys, ages 10 to 12, will travel to Orlando on Friday with their coaches to play at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at the Walt Disney World Resort.
But the trip will cost the Palm Beach Gardens Pee Wee Orange team $30,000. Head Coach Brandon Aronson set up a gofundme account, and as of Tuesday they were about halfway to their goal.
His players were brimming with excitement at practice at PGA National Park on Monday night.
“If we win, I’m going to be very happy. If we win, I’m probably going to cry,” said Ricky Knight III, an 11-year-old from West Palm Beach who plays running back, safety and slot receiver.
The Gardens team beat the South Central Tigers (from DeLand, north of Orlando), 32-14 Saturday in Winter Park to secure a spot in the Super Bowl, Aronson said.
Knight had an interception in that game, and Elijah Hopkins had another that led to a touchdown. Several players said they were impressed with how well the team worked together.
Tyler Aronson, 12, called the win a “relief,” noting the team was competing with players from other states for a spot in the Super Bowl. His long pass for a touchdown on a fourth-down play stands out in his memory.
“It was kind of like living the dream. All the hard work paid off,” he said.
Playing in the Super Bowl will be nerve-wracking, but it will be a fun atmosphere, he said. He’s looking forward to watching other teams play, too.
CJ Lizza, a 12-year-old from Palm Beach Gardens, is confident in the team’s ability to “win it all,” although he conceded, with a smile, that he’s a little nervous with all the excitement.
“Seeing how we can accomplish more each year just excites me even more,” the defensive tackle and linebacker said.
The boys made it to the playoffs last year, only to lose in the third of four rounds, Brandon Aronson said.
“It’s been a big motivational factor for the kids this year. They worked hard in the off-season and came back with a passion to make it to the Super Bowl this year,” Brandon Aronson said.
The team will play the Redwood City 49ers from California in their first game 1 p.m. Saturday. If they win, they will play again Tuesday. If they win the second round, they’ll play in the final Super Bowl game Friday. ESPN3 airs the games on TV and through online streaming.
To make a donation to the team, go to https://www.gofundme.com/gardens-pee-wee-superbowl-journey.