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MAKING A MARK: Portsmouth youth football team heads to national championship

The Churchland Tigers 12u Black team, known as "The Squad," put in the work to become regional champions. Now, they're hoping to bring home the national title.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — The Churchland Tigers 12u Black football team's 2021 season can be summed up in one word: undefeated.

"I decided to play [as] hard as I could," said Ezra Lowe, who plays center for the team.

When describing what led to their perfect season, Quarterback Keith Williams, Jr. said, "Just being disciplined and working hard, just listening to our coaches."

And the wins for this team, also known as "The Squad," extend beyond the field.

"It's called 'student athletes'. You're a student first, and then you're an athlete second," said Lowe.

Fullback Larry Hurdle said players are encouraged to "get good grades, listen to your parents, listen to teachers."

The Squad is part of the Southeastern Virginia Conference of the Pop Warner Football and Cheer League. Team mom Rosa Williams said the National Youth Football Organization is committed to developing young people.

"Pop Warner [is] just not necessarily just for athletics... but it creates life-long attitude skills, how to conduct yourself as an adult, and just a unity and a brotherhood and a sisterhood," Rosa Williams said.

The players, ages 10 to 12, are led by volunteer coaches and parents. Williams said she couldn't be prouder of them.

"They started practicing over the summertime. And just to see the cohesiveness, the unity, it's amazing," Williams told 13News Now. "When you see the growth throughout the few months, I mean, you have no other choice but to applaud these young men."

The Squad secured eight wins to take home the 12u Division I conference title in October. Now, their eyes are set on the national finals.

"We started from the beginning. We kept practicing, we kept doing good," said Hurdle.

"It's exciting. It's big, [be]cause it's like the first big stage [I've] really been on," said Keith Williams, Jr. "And I'm a little nervous, but I'm just ready."

No matter the outcome, team mom Rosa said they're already winners in her book. 

"Regardless of what happens, they've made it this far," she said. "I hope that they learn when they work together, when you work with each other, alongside [each other], you can accomplish so much."

The Squad is asking for your help to get to the Pop Warner National Championship, Dec. 4-11 in Orlando, Florida. You can make a donation through the team's GoFundMe.

Rosa Williams is also hosting a fundraiser to help cover travel expenses for the team. The Charity Sneaker Ball is on Nov. 27 from 7-10 p.m. at HUB 757 in Suffolk. The event is open to anyone 21 years of age and older. 

Tickets are $25 in advance and $35 at the door. You can get more information and purchase tickets here.