Tillamook Junior High School (TJHS) recently had some of their football players take place in the Oregon All State Game at Albany High School on June 29. This game helps to raise awareness for kids in foster care puts the best players in the middle school group against each other.
“This is the second year the games have been held here in Oregon and we plan to have many more successful years to come,” said Coach Joshua Luchiani, also known as Coach Luchi, of the Tillamook Junior High School’s football team.
The athletes from TJHS stayed in the dorms at Oregon State University for three nights and four days. They had an all-you-can-eat in the food court. They had a two-a-day practice starting on Wednesday, June 26 and wrapping up on Friday, June 28. In between practices, the kids got to watch a magic show by illusionist Hart Keene, take in a Corvallis Knights baseball game, watch a talent show, and got to listen to former and current kids in foster care speak about their experiences.
The games were played at South Albany High School on Saturday, June 29. There was a 6th, 7th, and 8th grade game. The games were free to attend; all that was asked was to bring a backpack for donation if possible.
“Last year, we had over 1,000 backpacks donated with over $1,000 in school supplies, and that was just from donation at the gate,” said Coach Luchi.
Athletes were nominated by coaches of the group and put together two teams at each level. The teams consisted of players from the Portland area (Team Metro) versus players from the rest of the state (Team Oregon).
“Last year, we had zero players from Tillamook in the event and this year we had five players make the squads: two at the 7th grade level and three at the 8th grade level,” said Luchi.
For the 7th grade Team Oregon, Jaydn Taksdal was selected as a wide receiver and Tyson Harpole played safety. For the 8th grade Team Oregon, Toby Green was selected as a running back, Sam Diaz was selected to play on the line, and Garrison Gunder was selected as a safety. Both Taksdal and Harpole will be returing to the junior high program this school year as 8th graders and look to help lead the junior high program to another successful season. Green, Diaz, and Gunder are all moving up the high school this school year and are looking to contribute in any way that they can. Gunder recently came to the junior high practice and spoke with the younger players about his experience at the junior high and the importance of building the family environment within the program.
Along with the five players that were selected to participate in the games, Coach Steve Schwend and Coach Luchi from the junior high returned for a second year of coaching Team Metro, along with Coach Lametrius Davis from Roosevelt and Coach Darion Chest from Westview.
“We ended up having to coach against our kids from Tillamook,” said Luchi.
This year, Team Metro swept the games with victories at the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade levels. The 8th grade game was the closest of the day with a final score of 12-9 in favor of Team Metro.
“It was a bittersweet moment because we want our kids from Tillamook to win, but we had jobs to do as coaches and built a bond with players from Team Metro during the week,” said Luchi.
Coach Luchi thanks Laif Morrison and Matt Williams from Foster Athletics for putting the event together to raise awareness for this issue and allowing the athletes to get their names out there and showcase the talents they have.
“We have so many talented athletes here in Tillamook that never get the chance to get the exposure they deserve,” said Luchi. “I truly feel that we could have sent two or possibly three more athletes from the 8th grade level last year. Thank you to Jaydn, Tyson, Toby, Sam, and Garrison for all the hard work you guys put in to help make our program better. Your hard work does not go unnoticed.”
Coach Luchi would also like to thank the sponsors that helped to get the players to the games: Keeley O’Brien, The Pelican Brewing Company, and all of the family members that donated.
Check out www.oregonallstategame.com to learn more about the foster care system. There is also a highlight video from last year as well as replays from this year’s games.
“We plan on having many more athletes participating in the games in the years to come and look forward to returning as coaches,” said Luchi. “Our goal this year is to see if we can have at least one kid from Tillamook make the cut for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade.”