A youth football team from Hoffman Estates earned its way to the national Pop Warner Super Bowl in Orlando with a narrow win Tuesday over a squad from Arizona.
The Junior Midget Redhawks, made up of seventh and eighth graders from Hoffman Estates, Schaumburg and Bartlett, defeated the Northeast Pride 15-12 and will take on the Jensen Beach, Fla. team at 1:15 p.m. Friday for the national title. The game can be watched online at ESPN3.com.
"We told the boys from the beginning that this was going to be a game of who wanted it more," league president Mark Mueller said of Tuesday's close game. "We were so proud of the way they played."
With a few days between games, the team will be spending time at Disney theme parks and studying to make sure they don't fall behind after missing a week of school, Mueller said.
The 27 players also will squeeze in a few practices before Friday's big game against the Jensen Beach Falcons.
"They are very fast team, and they have a lot of skilled players, but we're going to prepare the best we can. We're thrilled that the boys got to the national championship game," Mueller said.
Win or lose, Mueller said there will be a big celebration for the team when they get home.
The team struggled for funding for the trip to Orlando, but local and corporate donors made the week possible.
"The local backing we had from our neighborhood and our community got us here, so we're trying to bring back a title for the Chicagoland area," coach Gregg Kirkwood said.
Aside from the stress and hope to win, Kirkwood said the coaches, kids and their families are just trying to enjoy the week.
"We're having a blast. The kids are loving it. This is the chance of a lifetime down here," he said. "They are taking it all in and loving every second of it."