Over the Labor Day weekend 28 teams from around the Midwest braved the heat to kick off the start of the National Youth Sports Sanctioning Organization football tournament schedule. The five football fields at Youth Sports Inc. hosted the Tournament of Champions.
"Lawrence is a great place to host a tournament," tournament director Troy Wiseman said. "The facility makes it easier to run a tournament of this size."
NYSSO invaded Lawrence for the third year and fired up the crowd with competition between teams from Oklahoma, Wichita, Kansas City, Topeka, western Kansas and Lawrence. Kids from grades three through eight competed in the Tournament of Champions and all vied for points in the NYSSO standings.
Each team entered in the tournament was guaranteed two games. The winner of each age division won an automatic bid to the national tournament in November.
NYSSO is an organization that sponsors youth football and cheerleading, providing a high level of competition in its tournaments. It organizes leagues and tournaments that eventually lead to big Midwest tournaments at the end of the season.
"We put an emphasis on sportsmanship when building the competitive spirit," Wiseman said.
The Hurricanes represented Lawrence in the fourth and sixth grade divisions.
The 4th-grade Lawrence Hurricanes didn't appear rusty playing in their first game of the season on August 3, defeating the Oklahoma Contenders, 18-0 and advancing to the finals.
With the victory, the 4th graders advanced to face the Topeka Thunder. In the championship game, the two teams held each other scoreless in the first half before running back Stan Skwarlo took the game into his hands scoring on a 15-yard run and later adding a 35-yard score. The Hurricanes defense remained solid for four quarters, and the team took the championship, defeating the Topeka Thunder, 14-0.
The Hurricanes celebrated a victory over a team that has become a rival and looked forward to playing the national championships in November.
For the 6th grade Hurricanes, the Labor Day weekend started with an easy 32-0 victory over the North Kansas City Jets but ended with a disappointing 25-6 loss to the Mill Valley Jaguars. The Jaguar offense had a solid running game that was too much for the Hurricanes to handle. The team came prepared to play and faced a tough Jaguars team which will prepare them for the season.
Hurricanes coach and Lawrence Youth Football President Bret Toelkes said he was not concerned about his team's progression.
"This was competition at the highest level, and that is what we need to show our kids," Toelkes said.
Overall Wiseman said the weekend went well and the weather cooperated.
"It was a little tough to find hotels because it was a home weekend for Kansas University football, but since we are so close to Kansas City and Topeka there are options," Wiseman said. "I can't complain."
Toelkes said the fields were in beautiful condition, the weather couldn't have been better and the scoreboards worked well.
"Everybody does what they have to do from the city, Lawrence Youth Football and NYSSO to work hard and make the tournament a success," Toelkes said.
This is not the last stop NYSSO will make in Lawrence in 2005. The NYSSO National Championships will be held in Lawrence the weekend of Nov. 11. More than 70 teams will compete for the title of champion of the premiere youth football tournament in the Midwest.
Toelkes said it is an honor for Lawrence to be selected to host the national tournament this year.
"(Lawrence Youth Football) has an affiliation with NYSSO, we play in their tournaments and Lawrence's central location all factored into being selected to host this year's national tournament," Toelkes said.
Toelkes and Wiseman both agreed the facilities and the good relationship Lawrence Youth Football has with NYSSO will keep the Tournament of Champions coming back annually.