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The reigning champions of the Green Bay Packers Regional 7-on-7 tournament, Watertown High School, got the experience of a lifetime as they traveled to Indianapolis to represent the Packers in the NFL High School Player Development 7-on-7 National Tournament, July 12-15, 2012.
Twelve students from Watertown High School's football team, including Tarek Yaeggi, Jarod Peirick, Jacob Lauersdorf, Sam Zwieg, Jerry Williams, Aaron Kumbier, Zach Schmidt, Nick Miller, Anthony Bacchi, Alex Crogan, Jordan Schultz and Mike Winkelman, proved that they were one of the best teams in the state after losing only one of six games in the regional tournament hosted at Ray Nitschke Field. The team lost to Bay Port High School in the pool play, but when they played Bay Port again in the championship game of the single elimination round, they won, 28-14.
While the team's excitement went with them to Indianapolis, the first day of pool play on Friday, July 13, came with stiff competition, according to co-team captain and quarterback Tarek Yaeggi.
"The entire trip was a great experience for our team," Yaeggi said. "All of our guys had a lot of fun and really enjoyed being down in Indiana at the facility. There was also a lot of great competition, you know, the Vikings and Browns were really good. When we played the Bengals, we realized that we didn't have as much speed as we would like. Being there and experiencing that really gives us a good idea of what we need to work on this season."
Despite their shortfalls, Yaeggi said he was confident in what the team did have to offer.
"I really think that what we lacked in speed we were able to make up by playing the right routes and keeping our team chemistry," Yaeggi said. "We know how to work together, which is a huge benefit to us."
Co-team captain Jarod Peirick agreed with Yaeggi.
"Our biggest competitive advantage was that we came into this tournament as an actual team," Peirick said. "We had played with each other before this instead of just being pieced together at a camp. That helped us out a lot."
While the tournament was no doubt focused on the athleticism of the game, the NFL High School Player Development program, which all athletes competing in the 7-on-7 tournament were required to complete, pays special attention to qualities such as leadership and focuses on the importance of academics.
While in Indianapolis, students attended character development sessions on both Thursday and Friday. Those sessions included messages from guest speakers and leadership activities.
"I think that the whole thing was a great learning experience," Peirick said. "What we learned at the tournament will definitely help us become more competitive in our season. If we could, we would love to have the whole experience again."
The Packers went 2-5 during the pool play rounds on Friday and Saturday, winning their games against the Bears and the Ravens. Going into the single elimination playoffs, the Packers were the No. 3 seed in their division. They upset the No. 2 Vikings in the first round of the playoffs, defeating the team 50-49 in overtime, which placed them in the top 16 teams. Unfortunately, the Packers team lost to the Lions, 44-24, in the second elimination round, knocking them out of the competition.
"I'm really proud of the way our guys played," Yaeggi said. "The best part was being able to represent the Packers in a national tournament and travel with the team to Indianapolis. It was unreal for us to play at the Colts facility and to be able to experience all that. We just really want to thank the Packers and the NFL because it was great for our team and school to have this opportunity."