Gwinnett players seek youth football national title

Ken Burge has led Buford to several Gwinnett Football League championships in recent years.

The longtime youth football coach will take a group of eighth-grade players to San Antonio this weekend to try to win a national title.

Team North Georgia, which is coached by Burge, will play Massachusetts in the second annual Football University Youth National Championship semifinals on Friday at the Alamodome in San Antonio. The winner will face the Colorado vs. St. Louis winner in the finals on Sunday. The champion will be recognized following the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

"Everyone is in the same boat. They all have good players," Burge said. "I think we have a pretty good chance to do well. I know we'll compete."

Burge has 28 years experience as a youth football coach. He led Buford's youth teams to GFL titles three of the last four years, so he's very familiar with the players on the team.

"It's a lot more fun to prepare with them than against them," Burge said. "It's been pretty fun."

Burge coached team North Georgia in last year's FBU national championship, but the team lost by two points to eventual champion Central Florida in the first round.

The FBU Youth National Championship is the football version of the Little League World Series in baseball. It features 64 eighth-grade teams in a single elimination bracket, which began on Dec. 1 in the regionals. Team North Georgia defeated teams from Spartanburg, S.C., Cobb County, Kentucky and Charlotte, N.C., to reach the semifinals.

The 32 members of Team North Georgia includes 29 players from the Gwinnett Football League. The team features players from North Gwinnett, South Gwinnett, Peachtree Ridge, Buford, Brookwood, Duluth and Grayson.

"The interesting story is this is the only team out here with most of the players from one county," GFL president and FBU Director of Youth Football Erik Richards said. "It just shows you the level of talent in Gwinnett County."

Davis Mills (Duluth), Connor Heyward (Peachtree Ridge) and Jaymest Williams (Peachtree Ridge) were selected to the prestigious Eastbay Youth All-American Bowl, but declined so they could play in the FBU championship. Mills didn't play in the quarterfinal game due to injury but is expected to play this week.

"They gave up the individual goals for the shot at a national championship," Richards said.

Team North Georgia has allowed just one touchdown on defense in four games. The other two scores came on a kickoff return and an interception. The group is led by linebackers Antonio Woods (South Gwinnett), Ian Jenkins (Buford), Kameron Jones (Peachtree Ridge) and defensive back Jared Simpkins (Norcross).

"It's been a bunch of good athletes that has come together. They have fun together," Burge said. "We want to thank everyone that helped us out to get here."

Team North Georgia's seventh-grade team reached the Elite Eight and lost to Florida and was one game away from going to the Alamodome.

Team North Georgia

Number Name

1 Connor Heyward

2 Chase Brice

5 Jaymest Williams

6 Davis Mills

7 Avery Showell

8 Kameron Jones

9 Joshua Blackwell

10 Leonard Warner

13 Evan Sturgill

17 Zane Ashley

18 DeAngelo Gibbs

21 Ryan Lovelace

30 Nicholas Chmielowicz

31 Jared Simpkins

33 Jaylen Fleming

39 Ian Jenkins

40 Antonio Woods

41 Isaiah Pryor

42 Jack Ness

44 Malik Robinson

47 Dixon Yellott

51 Chandler Hood

53 Julian Uche

55 Keith Hernandez

57 Eugene Mafah

63 Edgar Bravo

67 Will Taylor

70 Drew Troupe

88 DeAndre Byrd

91 Nathan Haines

93 Edward Verdee

99 Kaid Cantrell

Coaches: Ken Burge, Gerald Mitchell, Steve Bussoletti, Tony Nanes, Terrance Chandler, Drew Dasher, Jake McCroskey, Ben McBryant, Ryan Gildemeyer