The best young football players from across the state of Oregon are ready to get after it.
And seven young players from the Lakeridge area will be there to help lead their teams, learn and grow.
The first Oregon All State Football Games are scheduled for Saturday at Eugene's Sheldon High School, with the sixth-grade game set for 9 a.m., the seventh-grade due at noon and the eighth-grade contest scheduled for 3 p.m. In addition to showcasing some of the best young football players from across the state, the games also serve as a vehicle to address problems in Oregon's foster care system. Organizers of the event have partnered with the Department of Human Services Child Welfare Program, Every Child and Oregon Foster Youth Connection to help bring awareness to foster children across the state.
Among those Lakeridge players slated to compete are five on the sixth-grade Red team, including running back Keaton Emmett (4-foot-11, 80 pounds), wide receiver Cole Holum (5-6, 110), tight end Joey Olsen (5-8, 120), quarterback Matthew Irwin (5-3, 100) and center Christopher Azari (5-6, 175).
Two other Lakeridge players will take the field for the eighth-grade Red team, linebacker Justin Lawrie (5-11, 165) and tight end Danny Monk (6-3, 175).
The games are free for fans, though organizers encourage fans to bring backpacks filled with toiletries and/or school supplies that organizers will then donate to foster children.
Regarding the game's greater mission — bringing awareness to the challenges of the state's foster care system — the Oregon All State Games website says the following:
"This game is to bring awareness to the nearly 450,000 kids in foster care. Did you know when kids are placed with foster parents they typically show up with a trash bag with their belongings? We want to change that. Part of the proceeds go to buying backpacks for kids."
In addition to the games themselves, players have — in the day's leading up to the games themselves — gotten to listen to dynamic guest speakers and participate in team-building activities at night.
The All State Games website goes on to further describe the immensity of the challenges the foster care system faces.
"Sadly, over 11,000 children spent at least one day in some type of foster care in 2016. We have a major problem here in the state and we need more parents involved.
"Lastly, because of the shortage of foster parents in Oregon, some of these kids are sleeping in office buildings. While that should make any parent uncomfortable, it also means these kids can't play organized sports at their school. We are betting there is at least one athlete, probably more, that are just as talented as these 6th, 7th and 8th graders playing in this event, they just don't get the opportunity."
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