Chiefland 11U football competes in national tournament in Daytona Beach

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By Sean Arnold

Young Chiefland Indian football players experienced something like a working vacation over the Thanksgiving holiday.

A collection of local 10- and 11-year-olds culled from a pair of Tri-County championship squads visited Daytona Beach for the National Youth Football Championships Nov. 23 and Nov. 24.

The annual event pits youth teams from different states – and from various league brands – to compete for age-based division championships over the holiday weekend in and around Daytona Beach (Eastern Division) as well as Las Vegas, where the Western Division is hosted. The divisions are divided up by age groups.

The Chiefland 11U team was making its debut in the prestigious tournament, and faced a daunting opener against a stout Maryland squad, on a chilly and rainy Thanksgiving morning.

The Indians fell behind by a big margin early but gained some traction by the fourth quarter, eventually losing 32-6.

“The first day we were a little nervous, kind of intimidated by the size of the other team,” head coach Lee Bell said. “That Maryland team was solid on fundamentals and real disciplined on defense. Watching them warm up, you could see they were pretty good fundamentally.

“Towards that fourth quarter, we got to feeling we ain’t bad, but it was too late then.”

The Indians used that momentum to spring into their Friday game against a team from Tennessee. Dakota Fisher, who churned up more than 300 yards in his team’s 12U championship win in October, ran for four touchdowns to help Chiefland to a 35-0 win in the consolation meeting, earning the team a third-place trophy. Osten Jones added a rushing score for Chiefland.

“They’re already talking about next year,” Bell said, “because they know they kind of shot themselves in the foot in the first game by not going out there and playing.”

Bell said the Maryland squad had competed multiple years at the tournament.

The football team was joined by 12 cheerleaders as well.

Chiefland played its games at New Smyrna Municipal Football Stadium.

The win Friday was icing on the cake for the young Indians, who enjoyed their hotel stay while getting in activities such as bumper racing, bowling, skating, a movie and, of course, swimming.

The team raised money for the trip with fundraisers at Chiefland Farm Supply/Ace Hardware, O’Reilly Auto Parts, Dunkin’ Donuts and Tractor Supply, and received contributions of $100 or more from 51 local sponsors, including a $1,000 donation from Drummond Community Bank.