On a crisp fall evening, a tradition was upheld in Valparaiso. Two teams, Benjamin Franklin Middle School and Thomas Jefferson Middle School faced off for a special football game. The cross town rivalry between BF and TJ is well-known, so this made for a lively and memorable game.
Nathan Kaufman, head coach for TJ, promised the team that if they won, three coaches will shave their beards that they have been growing since the beginning of the season. It looks like Coach Kaufman, Coach Wassilak, and Coach Znika will be clean shaven men. TJ beat BF 37-20.
"[Coach Kaufman]'s a very awesome coach. He hold the players to high standards and helps them with whatever they need," Jaime Lane, Coach Kaufman's girlfriend. "This is the closest knit group of kids and Coach Kaufman loves them. Their motto this year is 'We not me'.
Some digging was done, and it was discovered that since the 90s there hasn't been a team to go undefeated twice in a row. This will be TJ's 2nd year straight of being undefeated. Teammate Jesse Harper also has a new record as he's rushed for over 340 yards and had 17 carries. This game will add even more yardage to the record. Another player, Chase Neal, at the very first practice, kicked a field goal over 50 yards. That's as much as some high school aged kids can do.
Michelle Coberg, 8th grade language arts teacher at TJ said, "I thought this game was amazing. You could really tell that both teams were cohesive and it's neat to see the kids outside of school doing what they love."
"I've been friends with these guys since kindergarten," Max Buker, 8th grade player on the TJ team said."It's just an awesome experience."
TJ had a formidable opponent in Ben Franklin, who had a record of 5 and 3 for the season. They fought hard and kept TJ on their toes for the entire game. There was an equal amount of talent on both teams.
"It was a good game between two very good teams," BF head coach Steve Osburn said. "We played hard and that's all you can ask for. Together these two teams are going to be remarkable. We had a great bunch of kids. I've done this for a lot of years and this is a great team."
All of the players on each team have to work very hard to make things happen. VHS head football coach, Dave Coyle, was at the game and he loved watching the kids play.
"It was exciting to watch," Coyle said. "For a while you couldn't take your eyes off the game. There was so much scoring happening that you don't even see at the college level. I'm very excited for the future, I'll tell you that right now! It's a shame someone had to lose but there is a lot of skill from both teams, and it's great to see them all so happy. The enthusiasm from all of the coaches is awesome. BF and TJ both have great programs and they are both doing a great job."
As this is the upcoming freshmen class for next year, both teams mixed and took a knee together to listen to Coach Coyle as he congratulated them all on their hard work and spoke of the bright futures of all of the kids, on and off the field.
TJ players went back to their middle school for a pizza party and Coach Kaufman kept his promise and then some. The kids got to shave him. It's definitely a night that won't be forgotten.
"This was a great group of guys. We started out this year with a 'We not me' attitude, and each one of them has lived up to it. I've never been closer with a group of young men then I have with my team. It's like a family. All year long we came out, hit hard, and got better and better every day. I couldn't be more proud of them," Kaufman said.