Valparaiso saw a bright future for students as middle-schoolers from both Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin Middle schools met on the gridiron at Valparaiso High School for the second annual 8th grade game and tailgate party.
The event, which began last year as a way to showcase some of the brightest young talent the city has to offer, was moved this year to the high school.
Preceding the game was a tailgate party, with live music from local band The Code Names, made up of local students and sponsored by Front Porch Music and Chad Clifford. Sound equipment to help the young rockers was provided by Bigger Sounds.
As the students and their parents danced to the hits, Beth Murvine, seventh grade teacher at TJMS addressed the crowd and even tossed out a few t-shirts and souvenir footballs as students munched on hot dogs and cotton candy before the game.
“This is the second year for this event, and it’s the first time that we’ve brought these middle schools here,” said Murvine. “What typically would have been seen as a rivalry here is more of a joining together to focus on the positive connection between these 2 schools. Next year, all these kids are going to be together at the high school. So they’re going to become one force anyway.”
Other sponsors who helped make the game possible included the Valparaiso High School Maintenance team and the TJMS Parent Teacher Student Organization, who primarily handled the logistics, from bands to food and more.
“We wanted to give these kids something fun to do after school here,” said Elizabeth Krutz, Principal for TJMS. “Last year, we held this event on our home field, but due to a problem with our soccer field this year, we had to hold it here. We also thought that it would be nice for the students to have a tailgate party before the game, so we invited the band The Code Names here to play today, which is especially great because we have two of our students playing in the band.”
Krutz said that about 100 tickets were pre-sold, and they were expecting many more to be sold at the gate.
“It’s a beautiful day here, so we’re very fortunate to have good weather for the game here today,” said Krutz.
The game was a tight one, with TJMS taking an early lead with a touchdown, followed by a 2-point conversion. Ben Franklin answered with their touchdown to a conversion to tie the game at 8-8, where it stayed until late in the 4th quarter when BFMS’s Hayden Vineyard broke open on a fantastic 48 yard run late in 4th quarter to put his team in scoring position. They connected for a touchdown, followed by another 2-point conversion to put BFMS up 16-8 with less than 4 minutes left to play; a score they would maintain to win the game in the end.
Dave Coyle, Head Football Coach for VHS was very excited to see how well the teams played and sees a bright future for the students and for Valpo Athletics as a whole.
“I’m very excited for the future of Valpo sports,” said Coyle. “Seeing these two teams here play tonight, they both played well and I think that they’re going to make a great program for us in the future.”
Coyle feels strongly that there’s no substitute for interschool athletics.
“I think it’s the closest thing to life experience that you’re going to find,” said Coyle. “You come out here and you work as hard as you can, but sometimes, you still may not see the outcome that you had hoped for, and that’s true for what happens in life, as well. Through all the wins and losses, we’re just trying to help make great young men here. These young men are way ahead of many and I see a very bright future for them.”