Malheur County gridders take field to aid foster kids

Vale’s Owen Crane (far right) joined four Viking teammates to compete at the First Annual Oregon Youth All State Footbal Game in Eugene last month. (Photo courtesy of Nicole Crane)

VALE – Five Vale youths showcased their talent and helped foster kids at the First Annual Oregon Youth All State Football Game last month.

The event at Eugene’s Sheldon High School was sponsored by Foster Athletics, a Boise nonprofit, in conjunction with the Oregon Department of Human Services, Every Child Oregon, and Oregon Foster Youth Connection. Every Child Oregon and Oregon Foster Youth Connection are private Oregon foster child advocacy groups. 

The aim of the game was to collect backpacks and clothes for foster children in Oregon. 

The event consisted of three football games of six teams divided up into 6th, 7th and 8th grade players. 

The players were then divided into East and Metro teams with Vale players on the East team.

Matt Williams, a director at Foster Athletics, said the program paid off as 1,000 backpacks were collected at the day-long event.

 “We couldn’t be happier about how it turned out,” said Williams.

Vale’s Owen Crane, 13; Brooks Haueter, 12; Eli Aldred, 13; Spur Jacobs, 12; and Colten Stapleton, 12; participated in the games. 

The Vale players weren’t the only area youth to participate in the games.

Jamie Garcia, Marcos Rodriquez, and Ruben Hernandez of Ontario played as did Jace Martin, Conley Martin and Jacob Johnson of Adrian. Landon McDowall and Emilio Olvera competed from Nyssa. 

Williams said Foster Athletics kicked off the effort last year by contacting high school and middle school coaches and athletic directors across the state.

“They nominated the players and then we ranked them one, two, three,” said Williams. “We watched tons of film on these players.”

Williams said Foster Athletics asked coaches and athletic directors across the state to nominate their top three players. Then Foster Athletics chose the top player in each age category to participate in the game.

“There were plenty of second and third players from every team that didn’t make it,” said Williams. 

The players arrived in Eugene four days before the games and stayed in University of Oregon dorms. Williams said each player was asked to get a sponsor or sponsors to raise $525 for expenses.

“It was a cool experience staying in the dorms because you were kind of responsible for yourself,” said Crane.

Stapleton will be in the seventh grade this fall and said the event was fun.

“It was good competition,” said Stapleton.

Haueter said he enjoyed the day of football.

“I liked it. It was pretty exciting and there were more complex plays,” said Haueter.

Williams said about 240 youth participated in the three games.

“It surpassed what we thought. We were just blown away,” said Williams.

Pat Caldwell: [email protected].