Coach Chuck Lane talked with players at practice on Monday, Oct. 11, for the Pequot Lakes' age 12-under AAU football team that will participate in the state tournament next week.
A Pequot Lakes age 12-under football team will be competing in the state football championships on Oct. 21-24 in the Twin Cities. It's believed to be the first time that a northern Minnesota team has participated in AAU state competition.
Most of the players already compete in the annual in-house football league in Pequot Lakes. So the AAU traveling team will provide an additional football experience, according to coach Chuck Lane.
"Originally, we were going to play a full (AAU) season but then decided to put a team together to only compete at state," said Lane, who has coached youth sports in Pequot Lakes the past three years. "That way the kids could stay involved with the current youth program offered in our community. My goal was not to disrupt the youth program, but work together. Then the kids get the best of both worlds."
Lane began researching information about the AAU state football tournament after coaching traveling youth basketball last winter.
"We experienced a higher degree of competition (in basketball), and I thought it would be great to do in football," said Lane, who added that the traveling program is important since "youth football is the foundation and building block for the future of any program."
Lane, along with Anna Larson, began organizing the team. Other coaches include Jim Urseth, Tim Young, John Larson and Steve Huss. All of these individuals have worked in the youth sports program and "bring a tremendous amount of knowledge," according to Lane.
"I was fortunate to have the (Pequot Lakes) youth football program support what I was doing," he said. "We needed money to cover for jerseys, socks, jackets, equipment, and other fees."
Lane talked with Jackie Cogan (community education) and Marc Helmrichs (Pequot Lakes activities director), and received permission to use some equipment. They also had success in fundraising.
"I started to realize the community was on board, and we raised more than $3,500," said Lane, who added that donations went through the non-profit Patriots Athletic Club. "(PAC) also decided to donate all proceeds from the Bobber Bowl concession to our AAU team. They're really making an effort to support our youth team."
The Pequot Lakes team, with a roster of 26 players from ages 10-12 following a tryout, has been practicing each week in preparation for state.
"We do not have a lot of size, but we sure have speed and aggressive players," Lane said. "We will be facing teams that have been playing together all season, and these teams are coming from Class 5A schools. So it will be a challenge, with only five weeks to prepare. I can say the kids are starting to catch on to the plays, and they're gelling as a team.
"These kids play on their current teams, and then come out (for AAU) and learn all new plays and different defensive schemes in a short period of time."
The six-day event begins on Oct. 19 and will be attended by representatives of the two main sponsors - United Way and the Minnesota Vikings. The tournament will conclude with the top two teams playing at 10 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 24, in the Minneapolis Metrodome. Those two teams will also advance to national competition in Florida.
"The kids will experience great competition with lots of fans," Lane said. "It's quite an event for our small town to be part of."
Among the dozen teams competing in the 12-under state tournament are from the communities of Elk River, Big Lake, Stillwater, St. Louis Park, Lakeville, Eastview, Shakopee and Robbinsdale Cooper.
Lane added that his team is believed to be the most northern Minnesota team to ever compete in the AAU state tournament.
Anyone wishing to donate to the AAU team can contact Lane at (320) 304-1683 or email him at"mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org"email@example.com.
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