â€śChomps,â€ť The Cleveland Browns mascot, poses with members of the Uniopolis Browns last Thursday. The team played on the Clevelandâ€™s home field against another local team from Shawnee.
Most adults can recall a special moment from when they were kids that they will remember all their lives.
The members of this year’s Uniopolis Browns youth football team will always remember the 2012 season — and it hasn’t even officially started yet.
In their final preseason scrimmage, the Uniopolis Browns tangled with the Shawnee Seminoles in front of what will likely be their largest audience of the year — 54,297 screaming fans, complete with the Dawg Pound.
The local Browns traveled to Cleveland to play during halftime Thursday at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Most of the kids were so surreal to the moment that they were completely oblivious to the Chicago Bears, 28-20, win over the Browns.
“I was contacted by (Shawnee Seminoles head coach) Shawn Edwards about playing the exhibition,” Uniopolis Browns head coach Chad Sidey said. “Every year they have two teams play and they invited Shawnee to find another team and to come up and play. It was an experience of a lifetime for both the children and the coaches, too.”
The smaller version of the Browns provided big highlights, as Austin Shiflett ran for a pair of touchdowns and C.J. Stoler added another. Each score drew a big eruption from the crowd.
“The kids drew a bigger reaction than the (Cleveland) Browns did,” treasurer-secretary Jim Steinke said. “It was a great experience.”
The players, ages 9-12, watched most of the first half until it was time to go and get ready for the game in a spare locker room at the stadium. They got ready and played for eight minutes on the field. After their scrimmage game, they again got dressed and watched the second half of the game.
The kids got the chance to meet several Chicago Bears stars including Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte.
Eleven-year-old Riley Huelskamp, the son of Tonya and Chad Huelskamp and who has been a running back and middle linebacker with the team for three years, said the experience was unnerving at first.
“I was sort of nervous at first,” Riley said. “But when we started playing you didn’t even notice them. I will remember this for a long time.”
Sidey said the experience has pumped excitement into the upcoming season, which starts with an away game Sept. 9 against the Delphos Raiders.
“They are definitely pumped up for the start of the season,” Sidey said.
Nine-year-old Cameron Reichenbach, the son of Mary Lee and Jim Reichenbach, defined the moment as “the best day of my life.” Cameron is a cornerback and running back on the team.
“I thought it was rreally cool,” Cameron said of the feeling of going onto the field and seeing the crowd. “I wasn’t nervous, I just wanted to play good. It was really cool getting to see some of the Bears players.”
Hunter Sidey, 12, an offensive and defensive lineman for the team, described the event as “breathtaking.”
“I was completely speechless,” Hunter said. “I was definitely nervous with all of those people watching.”
Hunter described some of the players as “pretty cool guys” and remarked at the size of some of the players. He said Brandon Marshall was the biggest of the players the team got to meet.
Alex Glass, 11, the son of Kelly and Glenn Glass, said it the feeling was surreal.
“I couldn’t believe it was really happening and where we really was,” Alex, the team’s quarterback, said. He also an outside linebacker.
“I was a little nervous but I think he coaches were more nervous than I was,” Alex said. “It was pretty exciting. Jay Cutler told me to settle down and relax and I took the advice. I fumbled a snap and missed a pitch, but I did good on defense. We didn’t give up any points and I had two tackles.”