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Amateur football: SPFL champion Huskerz not assured chance at national title

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sports Worthington, 56187

Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

WORTHINGTON — Whether the 2014 amateur football season is over for the Southwest Huskerz, or isn’t, it has been a marvelous run.

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Southwest defeated the two-time national champion South Central Hawgs 39-7 Saturday at Trojan Field in Worthington to capture the Southern Plains Football League (SPFL) championship in the Huskerz’ inaugural season. The Huskerz challenged themselves to win the SPFL title before the regular season began, but the fact that they accomplished their lofty goal was by no means assured then.

Todd Schroeder, owner of the Huskerz, recalled Monday that the team’s brain trust managed to secure only about 15 of the 30 players it sought to fill its roster. Some of the team’s biggest stars, however, appeared for tryouts.

One of those was 5-8, 185-pound Tyler Decker, who became one of the league’s top defensive backs. Another was a 6-2, 250-pound linebacker who became one the Huskerz’ top tacklers. “We didn’t know who Mark Riley was, other than a big guy who lifted a lot of weights,” Schroeder said.

Throughout the season, the Huskerz have been talking about the possibility of playing for a national championship. With Saturday night’s victory over the Hawgs, they have met the qualifying threshold. That may not be enough, however.

Last year the Hawgs traveled to Oregon to play for the amateur 9-man national championship, so this is the year the Oregon titleist is supposed to travel to Minnesota for the 2014 championship game. But that isn’t going to happen. It’s expensive to make such a trip, and the Huskerz have been informed that their West Coast counterparts won’t be coming.

The possibility exists that the Huskerz could play a team from the Midwest Football Alliance (MFA), where the Des Moines Blaze are the top-ranked 11-man team in the country. The MFA is searching for a national championship partner, and Southwest head coach Ken McCuen — who has MFA ties — said he might know within a week if such a matchup could happen.

Also, the Minneapolis Sting have contacted the Huskerz about playing an 11-man championship game — an idea, McCuen said, “we would entertain.” To bulk up their team for an 11-man contest, McCuen said the Huskerz could draft players from the SPFL or open recruit players (Arena football players would be available).

McCuen coached with the Sting last December in Daytona, Fla., and insists that the Huskerz could compete well with an 11-man opponent.

But there are other issues. One is that if the Huskerz were to go on the road, their expenses would probably not be picked up by the SPFL. Another is that any other game might not be possible until mid-August or later, meaning that it might not be able to be played at Trojan Field so close to the start of the high school campaign. Besides that, it might not be so easy to pick up extra players after all, and whether that would feel right would be another issue.

In any scenario, however, McCuen and Schroeder agree it has been a remarkable summer season. The Huskerz already have the league title, which is what they sought since Day One.

“To say it, then produce it, that’s a hard task,” McCuen said Monday. “To watch my players and my coaching staff celebrate on the field, as they did, that was one of the happiest moments of my life.”

The season, said Schroeder, has been “much more than I could’ve ever imagined.”

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