It's holiday time for the Palo Alto Knights' football program. First up is Thanksgiving this week and then Christmas next month. In between, however, maybe something even more special for the players and their families.
The Palo Alto Knights Jr. Midget team year olds) is headed to Florida next week to compete in the 2015 American Youth Football (AYF) National Championships in Orlando. Action runs Dec. 6-11. The Knights will head to Florida on Friday, Dec. 4.
Palo Alto will play in an eight-team bracket, with first-round games on Dec. 6, semifinals on Dec. 8 and the championship set for Dec. 10.
The Knights earned their 11th trip to the nationals since 1999 by earning an automatic berth after going 8-0 during the regular season. A new rule allowed teams to drop from Division I to Division II at season's end if they had two or more losses. The Knights dominated at such a high level (averaging 36 points a game), that all the competition opted out of the higher division -- allowing Palo Alto the automatic berth.
Palo Alto, however, proved the invitation was well-deserved by sweeping through postseason playoff games with a 60-28 rout of the Vacaville Bengals and a 30-0 triumph over the Sacramento Ducks in the NorCal Division I Championship game on Sunday at Oak Grove High in San Jose.
Eric Borjon is making his second trip to nations as head coach. He also made the journey as an assistant coach to current interim president Mike Piha, who led eight different Palo Alto teams to the National Championships -- Pop Warner and AYF -- with his last team going in 2012.
The Knights are still seeking their first national championship after finishing second and third on their previous trips to Orlando. This season, however, is different than in past years.
The Jr. Midget team of 11-12 year olds was strengthened by the merger with the East Palo Alto Greyhounds earlier in the year, providing the two successful programs with great coaches and talented players. Eric Stewart, who coached the East Palo Alto Greyhounds to the Pop Warner National Championships (finishing fourth) in 2013, joins Borjon as the co-head coach. Both are seeking their first national crown.
The Jr. Midgets have scored 65 touchdowns (506 points) and only allowed five touchdowns (34 points) through 10 games, leading the league and nation in both categories.
"This might be the most talented Knights team we have had ever.," said Piha. "Coaches Eric and Eric have done an outstanding job in building a team environment and a 'family' with these two programs. That is not an easy task."
The team is seeking to raise $50,000 for travel and accommodations, which includes bring a cheer squad. Donations may be made by clicking here or Palo Alto Knights, PO Box 403, Palo Alto, CA, 94302.