The Hoffman Estates Redhawks became the first football team in Pop Warner history to win three national championships in a row.
In a word, "three-peat!"
The junior high-aged players from such Northwest suburbs as Hoffman Estates, Schaumburg, Elgin and Bartlett defeated the Riviera Beach Chargers from Florida by a score of 35-7 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World in Orlando.
As confident and well practiced as the players themselves were, Coach Rick Cyr said he couldn't help but be a little nervous on their behalf. But he ended up hoarse from all the shouting he'd done, during the game and after.
"I took a deep breath because I was worried, but these guys could probably go out and play another football game," Cyr said. "Their spirits are through the roof. Smiles from ear to ear."
As dominant as they may have seemed in their hometown, the Redhawks found themselves playing teams ranked higher in Orlando and were able to draw on their perceived underdog status for motivation, Cyr said.
"I think the boys were really confident," he said. "They knew the pieces that we had. They knew the hard work they had put in. As soon as they got down here, they were chomping at the bit to play football."
The team's prowess on the field also meant it had to hustle with its fundraising efforts late last month to afford this third consecutive trip to the championships in Florida. The team needed $1,000 for each one of the 24 players and appealed for donations from drivers and passersbys near the Walgreens store at the corner of Higgins and Roselle roads during Thanksgiving weekend.
The Redhawks had gone undefeated this fall and won the state championship before shutting out a team from Lee's Summit, Missouri, the day after Thankgiving in the Mid-America regional.
That paved the way for the team to be among the hopefuls for the Pop Warner Division II Pee Wee National Championship.
Victories last Saturday and this Tuesday ensured they were in position to win first place in Friday afternoon's final game.