SANTA CLARA, CA - A Santa Clara’s Pop Warner football team is heading to another championship tournament in Orlando, FL next week. Santa Clara’s mayor stopped by the team’s last practice tonight for a special send-off.
For the 2nd year in a row, the Santa Clara Wildcats 12 U will be playing for the championship against teams from across the country. They told me they learned a lot last year and this time, they’re sticking to their game plan.
It was a celebration of a job well done this season as the Santa Clara Wildcats prep for their chance to win the Pop Warner Super Bowl.
"It’s so much hard work and the competition is way different from what it is here," said Gavino Rodriguez, Wildcats quarterback.
The Wildcats beat three undefeated teams to get back to the playoff tournament in Orlando, FL this year. At the team’s last practice on Tuesday night, Santa Clara’s Mayor and Council member Kathy Watanabe recognized the coaching staff.
"We want to give this certificate of special Mayoral recognition to the Wildcat coaches for all your achievements this year, helping this team make it to the Nationals. So, on behalf of the City of Santa Clara, we want to give you this and your other seven coaches that are here," said Lisa Gillmor, Santa Clara Mayor.
"I want to show that I really support this. That’s why I was here last year. I’ll be here next year. So, I think it’s great," Gillmor said.
Craig and Linda Connelly have run the Pop Warner program in Santa Clara for years. Head Coach Roger Young says the couple’s dedication keeps people coming back. Sixteen of the team’s 25 players played on last year’s winning squad.
"The nucleus of these kids is unbelievable. These young men have gotten stronger. The bond that they came back from Florida with was amazing," Young said.
Strong community support is also apart of the team’s winning formula.
"I want to thank everybody that supported us along the way that came to the games. Everyone that’s donated, everyone that’s helped out to help us go to Florida," Rodriguez said.
The team leaves for Florida on Thursday morning, and they’re still asking for donations to help with expenses as the team heads to Orlando. If you’d like to help this team out with a donation, click here: Santa Clara Wildcats.