On Dec. 2nd, at Dexter/Southfield in Brookline, MA the sixth, seventh and eighth grade Massachusetts Elite football teams won their way into the Elite 8 of the FBU National Championship.
This year’s eighth grade team features six athletes with Westwood connections. Five of the players are from Xaverian (Matt Defeo, Alex Saunders, Cole Jette, Michael Oates and Michael Larmond) and one from Westwood’s Thurston Middle School, Tony Maroun.
“We’re all very excited and we know that we’re going up against some really good competition,” said head coach and co-director PJ Vande Rydt. “For eighth graders, this is really more like high school football than grade school football. The size, the speed and the level of competition is what we’re up against as we play against some of the best players in the country.”
All three teams competed in and won their regional bracket games, which were held at Dexter/Southfield in Brookline on the weekend of Dec 1st.
“I feel blessed to have such great coaches and players affiliated with this program.” Vande Rydt has been the head middle school coach at Xaverian for the last five years and was the head middle school coach at Westwood for 6 years prior to that.
“We are very proud of our teams,” said Vande Rydt. Our players have worked very hard to get to this point. These players try out in either July or October, and this year we had over 250 player’s try out for 110 spots. Practices begin in mid November and we get in about 30 hours before we play our first games. We have 108 young men from 45 cities and towns across Massachusetts who represent a true cross-section of football leagues and school programs. Massachusetts Elite Football has a long history of success, with three teams previously competing in the National Championship Final Four in San Antonio, Texas and in Naples Fl. The program also boasts over 20 alumni currently playing or headed to Penn State, Northwestern, UCLA, Michigan, Boston College and other Division 1 football programs.
“On our 8th grade team we had three players, Scotty Brown, Preston Zinter and Kole Osunubi nominated for a national award, the General Dennis Gavin Award. This is awarded to the top eighth grade player out of thirty two teams playing in this national tournament.” Osunubi, a three year player and Belmont Hill star, has made it as a final recipient along with four other players in the country.
“This is a tremendous accomplishment for these boys and for football in the state of Massachusetts.” Vande Rydt says the teams will be able to compete with teams that play football all-year long. This program shows colleges from around the country that the talent is as good in Massachusetts as it is in all the southern states.