GRAFTON—The North Central Panthers 10U All-Star team recently participated in World Youth Football Championship in Canton, Ohio, and this past Sunday, brought the championship trophy back home with them to West Virginia.
The Panthers, comprised of coaches and players from Grafton, Clarksburg, South Harrison, Buckhannon, Elkins, Bridgeport, and Fairmont, were one of four teams invited in the 10U travel division. The other three participants were all-star teams from New York, Pennsylvania, and Georgia. Players from Grafton who are members of the Panthers and made the trip to Canton included Kaden Keener, Riley Humphries, and Josh McIe.
A single-elimination format was in place with the winner of the game moving on to play in the championship game on Sunday.
On Friday, North Central was matched up against the Pioneer Warriors out of Buffalo, New York. The Panthers would strike early and strike often, winning the game in dominating fashion by the score of 33-0. Scoring touchdowns for the Panthers were Kaden Keener (2), Gabe Ferrell (1), Brody Jeran (1), and Brody Kehler (1), while extra points were scored by Keener, Jacob Nutt, and Dayne Murphy. The Panthers also did not allow a first down to the Warriors in the game.
“We dominated in every area of the game Friday night,” said Panthers’ coach Hartsel Keener. “Every one of our players came to play and had fun.”
On Saturday, the teams took the day off to rest and spend some time together before playing in the championship game on Sunday.
“We took the team to tour the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” explained Keener. “It was great for the players to look at all the memorabilia, find their favorite players, learn about the history of football, and see that the possibilities are endless.”
Former Pittsburgh Steelers legend Rod Woodson was also the Hall of Fame guest speaker for the teams.
The championship game on Sunday was played at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton and pitted the Panthers against the Savannah Southeast Bulldawgs from the state of Georgia.
The game got underway and after an excellent return on the kickoff from Jaden Hatfield gave North Central excellent field position, North Central’s Keener eventually scored one of his two touchdowns on the day. His second was set up after a fumble recovery by the Panthers’ Owen Stanley.
“Kaden really came to play this weekend,” Coach Keener stated proudly. “He controlled the game, scored when we needed him to, and even had an interception in the game. The offensive line was great and deserves credit as well.”
After the Panthers’ second touchdown of the day, both teams would go on to play excellent defense, and the game would end in favor of the newly crowned champions, the North Central Panthers, by the score of 12-0.
“I’m so proud of this team,” Keener went on to say. “This was definitely a team effort. It gives these boys exposure and experiences that they would not be able to get elsewhere. Kaden, Riley, and Josh always give me 100% and I hope that we made the community of Grafton proud. The future of Grafton football looks bright with these young Bearcats.”
In addition to being named tournament champions, each player and coach for the Panthers will be awarded a national championship ring, and were also fortunate enough to have their game live-streamed on the World Youth Football Championship website. A replay of the game is scheduled to be televised on the CBS Sports Network on January 1st with a time yet to be determined.