SOUTHINGTON - When Southington teenagers Connor Fletcher and Kamron Beaudoin took the field at Rice University in Houston, Texas, for the Youth Armed Forces Bowl earlier this month, the two friends and teammates noticed that it wasn’t just the 47,000-seat stadium that dwarfed their usual experience on the gridiron.
Their opponents on the other side of the line of scrimmage seemed larger than life.
“It was almost like a different breed,” Beaudoin said. “The kids were huge down there. I feel like we’re a bit smaller here for some reason, and I have no idea why. They take their football serious down there.”
Despite a clear size difference, Beaudoin and Fletcher showed that the north takes football seriously as well, helping lead Team Air Force to a 48-0 rout and an experience that the two 14-year-olds won’t soon forget.
“It was very fun and a cool experience to play in a college stadium,” Fletcher said. “Especially since a Super Bowl was played there.”
Fletcher and Beaudoin were just two of six Southington players to compete on the grounds of Super Bowl VIII (a win for the Miami Dolphins back in 1973), and three of them carried the Beaudoin last name on their backs. Beaudoin’s little brothers Konner (12) and Kaden (7) both made the trip as well, playing in the earlier games before Beaudoin and Fletcher took the field for Team Air Force on July 7.
“It was fun,” Beaudoin said after playing wide receiver, tight end and linebacker during the event. “It was fun to see them play, and for them to help our team. They would come give us water at times because it was so hot. It was good to have them support me.”
The Beaudoin family endured the grueling heat that eclipsed 100 degrees to represent Team Air Force, honoring their grandfather, who served in the military from when he was 18 years old (primarily serving in the Air Force) until his retirement in 1992.
“It was very important to me,” Beaudoin said of playing for his grandfather. “It was really a good program all-around. It was nice that they did the Armed Forces Bowl like that, and honored veterans and everything.”
Fletcher joined the Beaudoins on Team Air Force to play alongside his friend one last time. Fletcher and Beaudoin have played winter and travel football together for years, but the Youth Armed Forces Bowl provided a chance for the two to share the field one last time before Beaudoin moves on to Southington High School and Fletcher joins Wilcox Tech.
“Kam and I are very close friends,” said Fletcher, who played defensive end for Team Air Force. “It was a good experience for us to play together for the last time, at least the last time that we know of … It was great. I really enjoyed it.”
The two will be walking separate paths to the high school level, but they both enter the next chapter of their football careers with a heightened sense of confidence after taking on and taking down some of the biggest (literally) competition that they’ve ever faced.
“It’s just different down there,” Beaudoin said. “It definitely gives me an idea of what I’ll be going against in the future. I think I’m mentally prepared. Their size doesn’t really matter to me. It doesn’t scare me.”
Fletcher walked away with the same mindset as his longtime friend.
“It was a different experience,” Fletcher said. “It makes me feel more confident that I can be faster and stronger than bigger kids and overpower them. Playing in Texas made me feel like I can definitely go further, past high school and maybe past college … It definitely expanded my football experience.”
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org