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Three Canby seventh-grade football players are representing their town — and their state — on one of the sport’s largest stages this week, as the first annual National Middle School Championship Tournament at the 2022 U.S. Army Bowl kicks off at The Star, the practice home of the Dallas Cowboys, in Frisco, Texas.
Billed as “America’s Biggest Week in Football,” the weeklong event invites top athletes and teams from all over the country to showcase their ability and compete on the nation’s biggest football stage.
Long-known as hosting one of the top high school all-star games in the country for aspiring football stars — and one that is closely watched by the nation’s top college coaches, scouts and media — the middle school tournament is a new addition this year.
Team Oregon, or the “Oregoonz” as they prefer to be known, is one of 32 that will be vying this week for the title of the country’s best middle school football team. Among the 35 seventh-graders selected for the squad are three from Canby: lineman Benjamin Preciado, safety Brody Grisham and linebacker Lincoln Woolsey.
The trio tried out in August and were hand-picked for the squad, according to their coach, Jason Grisham.
“It’s really cool,” Brody Grisham told the Current in an interview last week. “I was surprised, honestly. It feels amazing.”
“It feels great because I’ve always wanted to go to different states,” agreed Woolsey, who said he has been playing the sport since kindergarten. “To be able to play football with and against some of the best players from Oregon and other states is like a dream come true.”
Being selected for the tournament was a perfect capper to a magical season for the seventh-grade team, which finished as the No. 2 squad in the state after falling to Lake Oswego, 6-0, in the championship game last month.
“We went further than we expected,” Preciado said. “The championship was pretty intense. We fell short, but it was a fun experience.”
With Team Oregon’s members scattered across the state, practices have been a challenging affair in recent weeks, taking place over Zoom calls before coming together at Island Boys Camp in Salem last week.
The Oregoonz will play four games in Frisco, starting with a cross-country showdown with Team Massachusetts on Tuesday night. And, despite a dicey weather forecast that morning, the game kicked off as planned, with Oregon triumphing 34-0. They will take on Team Texas Wednesday.
Oregon’s eighth-grade team also came out on top in opening day action, 22-0, and while the state’s sixth-graders lost a heartbreaker, 6-0.
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