After getting an invite and securing several sponsorships, the 2021 Talawanda Braves 5th-grade football team traveled to Knoxville, Tennessee, to compete in the Battle in Rocky Top last weekend. They ended up finishing 3rd place out of 14 teams in their bracket (10u 5th Grade).

Battle in Rocky Top (BRT) is a nationwide, post-season youth football tournament in Knoxville. Over the years, it has turned into something like a national tournament for youth football. The Braves' finish earned them the spot of #3 in the nation.

The Talawanda 5th grade football team is led by head coach Brad Harvey, formerly of Union County. Since his children could compete, he had been volunteering as an assistant coach for his two sons' teams, Brian and Brison, as they were (and still are) coming up through Talawanda Youth Football. He took over head coach duties last season during Brian's 4th-grade year. Up to that point, their team had never won a game, but that all changed last season as his team went on to win the Talawanda Youth Football Super Bowl. "I've always had a passion for football and loved playing in Liberty," Harvey stated. Assistant coaches include Hooper Hurst, Jason Abney, Dusty Taggart, Josh Brown, Ryan Plough, Marcus French and Kyle Ritchie.

Players are David Brown, Kaiden Meiser, Tate Taggart, Kyzer Murr, Clayton Baker, Gianluca Rodbro, Brody Abney, Cameron Andrews, Avery Uryga, Gage Leitzman, Jude Powell, Brian Harvey, Carter Ritchie, Carter Hurst, Jensen Rowe, Jeremiah French, Aiden Zimmerman, Bryton Vaughn. Four players from the Braves are from Union County - Gage Leitzman, Jensen Rowe, Carter Hurst, Avery Uryga. "I could name my whole team as standouts. I've got some great coaches and kids whom I love dearly. We are a part of one of the best organizations around the Talawanda Bantam Football League, part of the GCYFL," Harvey added.

When asked what his secret was to winning, the coach replied, “Just hard work. I brought these boys together as a family. The brotherhood is strong with all of them. I preach family and respect daily - Coaching football is much more than just the game.”

The BRT is made for every type of team, league champion, playoff contender, and even teams with losing records. All groups that attend are the product of hard work and sacrifice, leading to this final test. In 2020, BTR hosted over 290 teams from across 20 states.

Tournament director Josh Jones described the experience, "We have a very friendly atmosphere with some great competition at the Battle In Rocky Top and everyone can see the relaxing lifestyle we live in Knoxville, TN. There is plenty to do while in Knoxville at either no cost to you and your team or at a very affordable cost to you and your team."

In most age divisions for this event, BRT has two divisions per age group (American & National) to help separate the talent levels; this helps make things more competitive. Regarding the format, Jones stated, "Two game minimum guarantee per team (very possible you could play more than two games), we try to make sure all teams who win at least one game will play a third game, usually this happens unless a team receives a bye. Each age division will be played in a true tournament modified single elimination format with consolation games taking place. Our friendly but competitive format is one of many things that separate us among other tournaments... Two games is the most a team would play in a day and four games is the most they would play over the weekend. No team will play back-to-back games."