Danbury Trojans Pop Warner Team Heads To Nationals for First Time in Over 20 Years
It's been more than 20 years since the Danbury Pop Warner 12U football team went to Nationals. Now the group is heading back again, and they need your help.
In the past two weeks, the 12U Danbury Trojans have won the Southern Connecticut Pop Warner Championships as well at the State of Connecticut Championships. This past weekend, the Trojans clinched New England Regional Championships and will be competing against the best of the best in Pop-Warner Football for the National Championship. The Trojans will face off against seven of the best teams in the nation for the right to claim the title of national champs.
This is the first time since 1996 that a team from Danbury has gotten this far and will compete for a National Championship. In fact, the last time Danbury was in this position, Ryan Saunders was a player on that National Championship team, now he's the team's head coach.
After the win over the weekend that propelled the team into the Nationals, Ryan said, "the team, the players, the coaches, and all the parents are ecstatic, and looking forward to the challenge to compete against some of the best teams in the country."
Ryan said it's a great group of players and coaches, but going undefeated the entire season was not without its challenges. "We've had a lot of ups and downs and a lot of injuries, but the players have been great and were able to pick each other up every time one gets knocked down."
Saunders said he team beat some tough competition to advance including New Haven for the Connecticut State Championship, but even before that they had to win tough games against Waterbury, and Hartford, and clinched the trip to Florida with a win over a team from Lawrence, Massachusetts in the New England Regionals.
"It was pretty exciting back in 1996 as a player on an undefeated and un-scored-upon team." Saunders told us. "I don't know if it's ever been done to have a player compete in the Nationals, and then come back and coach a team heading to Nationals. It means a lot to me, it's exciting."
Now, it's also a family affair for Ryan, who also coaches at Henry Abbott Tech, and at Immaculate High School, as he has a son and a niece on the team. He says that giving back is so important. "It means a lot to be able to come back and give back to the community. Growing up you always have those coaches that make an impact on you, and it's nice to be looked at as that guy now, and football is a big thing and giving back is just as important to me as well."
The Nationals are taking place from December 4 through December 11, and now the team is trying the raise the funds to be able to make the trip, and "take it to them" as Ryan said.
To help with the cost of the trip, the team has started a Go-Fund-Me page to help with the cost and get all 21 of their athletes to Florida. It's a major financial undertaking for player's families, and they need the communities help to get there and back.