East Ridge youth team gets to play at the Georgia Dome - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

East Ridge youth team gets to play at the Georgia Dome

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EAST RIDGE, Tenn. (WRCB) -- The magnitude of the situation didn't initially register for Tadarrel Hodge.

The East Ridge Mustangs' standout lineman already had a commitment this Saturday, so he didn't really think about changing his plans.

"I was wanting to play, but I had a basketball game," Hodge said sheepishly. "Then I thought about it overnight and realized I was probably never going to play here again, so... yeah."

Yep.

The 13-year-old almost turned down a chance to play in the Georgia Dome.

After regaining his senses, Hodge will join the rest of the East Ridge Mustangs in Atlanta this weekend to play on the same field as the Atlanta Falcons.

For his teammates, the decision was a no-brainer.

"Just to go down there and be at a real NFL field, I was happy and excited," said a near speechless Austin Chastain.

The opportunity came through the contacts of head coach and local recreation leader Stump Martin, who received one of the first calls when Dr. David L. Scott considered including local youth teams for his day-long Coalition Bowl all-star festivities at the Georgia Dome.

"It will be something our coaching staff and parents remember for the rest of their lives, too," Martin said. "It's just a tremendous opportunity."

The Mustangs will be one of 12 youth teams that get to play on the turf before a pair of Georgia high school all-star games.

While their eyes may be big when they first arrive, Martin expects a good showing from a team he describes as "well beyond their years" on the field.

"We're all really focused," said running back Jordan Hughley. "Sometimes we'll play around, but when it's game time, it's serious."

Added Chastain, the team's quarterback: "We all stay together. If one link of the chain is not working, the whole chain is not working."

The task is a tall one against Team North Georgia, a reigning youth state champion from Calhoun, but the goal is still as simple as it can get.

"Have fun and win," said Hodge.

Team North Georgia won an earlier meeting between the two teams, 21-0, so getting a little revenge would make a once-in-a-lifetime experience that much sweeter.

"It's going to be fun and no matter what. We'll look back on it and smile one day, but really, don't you think we'll smile a little bit bigger if we win?" Martin said with a big smile.

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