Minneapolis youth football team wins national championship

A youth football team in Minneapolis is celebrating a national championship win.

The Phelps Falcons are based out of Phelps Park, which is about a block away from George Floyd Square. Twenty players made up of fifth, sixth, and seventh graders, are fresh off a plane ride back from Las Vegas, where they were invited to compete in a national youth football tournament.

"We didn't have the tournament planned already, but then we got a last-minute donor, and then we went to Vegas," said Cordell Givance, a seventh grader on the team.

The Phelps Activities Council brought in donations totaling $10,000. The nonprofit is dedicated to changing the lives of young people in south Minneapolis through organized sports and activities.

"Everything's based here at this park. We practice here. The support from the community has been fantastic: numerous people texting or calling during the tournament, ‘How are you guys doing? Are you winning?’" said their coach, Bryan Cupito.

Cupito, whose son Carter is on the team, is no stranger to football as a former Gophers quarterback. He said it was incredible this weekend to bring home Phelps' second national championship. The first was a team of eighth graders back in 2009.

"Tyler Johnson, who obviously is from the Gophers and played in the NFL, is from Phelps. Rashad Vaughn, who played in the NBA, is from Phelps. So, there's a lot of great athletes that have played here. We're just part of it," Cupito said.

Four or five of the players had never flown before, and they tell us they had the time of their lives in Vegas. They had already traveled this year to Wisconsin, Chicago and Tennessee. 

"It felt really exciting, especially winning with all of my friends and all the work we put in, and it just felt rewarding that we went down there and won," Givance said.

"All my friends are on the team, and it’s just a great environment," added Carter Cupito, who is in sixth grade and is the team’s quarterback.

As for the tournament itself, the Falcons played mostly West Coast teams. Their final win wasn't a surprise, though, because they were up the whole game.

"The championship game, I think, was what 37-0? Yeah, we blew them out of the championship," said Kyson Wanjara, a seventh grader.

Across the Phelps Falcons organization, more than 50 volunteers work with more than 300 children, who are mostly children of color.

Basketball practice starts later this week.