A group of Reading Pop Warner players are making a trip to Florida this weekend thanks to a historic football season, and they’re hoping to bring back the ultimate souvenir – a national championship.
Reading’s A Team earned the Patriot Division New England title with a 24-13 win over West Haven, Conn., on November 23, and as a result they will travel to Disney World to play for a national title. This group is the first Reading football team to ever qualify for the Pop Warner National Championship.
“We thought coming in that we would have a good football team, but I’m not sure anyone expected us to get this far,” said head coach Dave Erwin. “Now we go in hoping to win it all, but happy with a good effort. That’s what we’ve been talking to the kids about all playoffs. The expectations are to play as best we can, and beat your guy on the next play.”
Fundraising efforts have been underway throughout town with players holding coffee cans and accepting donations in hopes of defraying the cost for players who are making the trip.
In addition, league members were in attendance at the annual Thanksgiving Day game at Reading High School raising money.
Residents interested in donating to the team can visit the Reading Pop Warner website for information.
“It’s kind of helter skelter because you don’t know you’re going to need to fundraiser until very last minute,” said Erwin. “We’ve been very fortunate to have people step up and organize it, and it’s been really successful.”
Most families will begin arriving in Florida late this week before the team holds its first practice on Sunday night.
Reading will play in two games, the first being a tilt with a team from Rhode Island on Monday, Dec. 9, at 1 p.m. The second contest will take place on Thursday, Dec. 12, at 3 p.m. The four teams in the bracket are from Reading, Rhode Island, Illinois and Ohio.
In addition to the football team, Reading is sending its D Cheer Squad to the national competition in Florida as well. Patch is working to put together a preview for that team’s trip as well, so check back for details.
Erwin said the entire experience on and off the field has been one his players will always remember.
“The town has been real supportive of the team,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of excitement around the town, more than I was anticipating. Everyone from businesses allowing the kids to fundraiser to people making donations, it’s been a really positive thing for these kids. They’re learning about hard work and teamwork on the field, but now working with fundraising they’re learning a lot.”