Finally, a National Championship football trophy has returned to Lincoln.
The Star City Silverbacks, a team of 11- and 12-year-old athletes coached by 1993 Ralston High School graduate Chad Case, claimed the NYFC National Championship on Nov. 30, capping a 14-1 season in which they dominated the competition.
Case had thought his football days were done.
The former RHS and Nebraska Wesleyan University standout had been out of the game for several years following a stint as a graduate assistant at Pittsburg State in Kansas and had settled into a career helping athletes achieve peak performance through nutrition and supplements.
But then one day, six years ago, his 6-year-old son Cedric approached him with a question.
“He said, ‘I want to play football,’” Case remembered. “And I’m thinking, ‘Well, I’m not quite sure if I’m ready for this. Do I want my son playing football?’ I said to him, ‘OK, we’ll get you into a flag league and kind of work on it from there.’ He looks me straight in the eye and says, ‘Nope. I want to play tackle. And I want you to coach me.’”
Case, a 1993 RHS graduate now living in Lincoln, enrolled Cedric in a local league and grabbed a whistle. Over a five-year period, the team he formed won more than 60 games, averaged more than 40 points per contest and generally dominated the competition in the state and the region.
Then, earlier this year, Case struck out on his own and organized a new team with the same players he’s coached for six years now: the Star City Silverbacks.
On Nov. 30, the Silverbacks claimed the National Championship in the age 12-and-under division at the National Youth Football Championships in Las Vegas.
“It was an awesome experience,” Case said. “This team has been together since they were little kids and now, it’s like a big extended family. To be a part of these young men’s lives and to see them get this opportunity, it’s been very humbling for me.”
Star City’s road to the championship reads like the stuff of legend. Entering his team in the highly-competitive Heartland Youth Football League, Case — with son Cedric calling the signals at quarterback — led the youngsters to an undefeated 11-0 league mark. In those 11 games, the Silverbacks yielded zero points to their opponents while averaging more than 50 themselves.
Wanting to showcase his young talent, Case entered the team in a regional tournament in Kansas City, Mo., and put the 11 and 12 year olds into competition with athletes aged 13 and 14.
“Aging up a level is tough in any sport, especially football,” Case said. “The difference between even 12 and 13 is pretty huge.”
Still, in their first game of the tournament, the Silverbacks knocked off an older team by a count of 47-0. They turned around a few hours later for a tilt with the Football University All-Stars, a two-state collection of the best in the Kansas City metro area.
“We’re talking about guys that were 6 feet and 200-plus pounds on the D-line,” Case said. “And we’re playing our second game in one day. That’s not easy.”
The Silverbacks held their own for three quarters and were within a touchdown in the final period before a setback turned into a score for the All-Stars and sent the Star City kids to an 18-8 defeat.
Despite the loss, the Silverbacks had sharpened their spears on other, bigger clay and headed into the National Championships with a vengeance.
Though the No. 5 seed in the five-team tournament, Case said he knew going in that his team had talent and something to prove, which made them a dangerous contender.
“The boys were ready to play,” he said.
In the opening game, Star City beat the Paramount (Calif.) Pirates 19-6, earning them a berth to the tournament final and a shot at the defending National Champions, Red Creek Nation of Colorado.
The Silverbacks ran away in the finale with a 37-13 victory. They finished the season 14-1, beat the top teams in the world and hoisted a National Championship trophy.
“I don’t think they 100 percent understand what they did but I keep telling them how special this is,” Case said. “It’s a grind of a season. We start in July and we were playing right through the last day of November. We kept saying that if you’re still playing now, you’re doing something right. It was pretty remarkable.”
Under the Star City Select umbrella, Case is now starting basketball teams for boys and girls and will also have a track-and-field program.
“It’s all about doing it right for these young athletes,” Case said. “We wanted to do something more for as many kids as we could. That’s the idea behind Star City Select and what we want this organization to be: to show kids the right way on and off the field.”