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Ocoee Earns First Mid-Florida Title in a Decade
by Bob Field, Jr.- Saturday, December 12, 2015
When you win a Pop Warner National Championship, it’s often about more than just about team pride. Sometimes it’s about pride in winning respect for an entire region. And that’s exactly what motivated the super-talented Ocoee Bulldogs today as they turned on the jets and rolled to the Pop Warner Unlimited Division Championship over a good Reno Miners team.

As Bulldogs’ Head Coach Middleton saw it, “This was about winning for the entire Mid-Florida Conference.   Mid-Florida last won a title, I think, back in 2003. Since then, throughout the state of Florida, and around the country, it seemed like we’d lost a little respect. We regained that respect today.”

I’ll say they did!  Against a very tough Reno Miners team, the Bulldogs combined blinding speed from their running backs, pinpoint passing, and solid offensive and defensive play to leave no doubt that the Ocoee Bulldogs were the best in their class at Pop Warner Super Bowl 2015.

The Bulldogs opened the scoring with 2:32 to go in the first quarter on an 80 yard bomb to their tall wide receiver. The PAT kick was good, and the Bulldogs were up 8-0.

With the big Mid-Florida crowd roaring their support, Ocoee went to the air again at 7:00 to go in the half. With the ball on their own 20 yard line, the Ocoee quarterback completed a swing pass to their speedy tailback. He grabbed the rock, tucked in behind two key blocks, hit a clear path down the sideline, and raced the length of the  field for the Bulldogs second touchdown. The PAT was good again and the Bulldogs lead grew to 16-0.

Meanwhile, the tough Reno offense relied on what had gotten them to the championship game - a hard-nosed, up-the-gut, 3 yards-at–a- clip running game. But, each time, true to their nickname, the Bulldogs defense refused to surrender the “big gain.”.

Late in the first half, Reno threatened on a good downfield drive. But, the Miners fumbled on the Reno 17-yard line and the alert Bulldogs recovered.
Before the Miners could get catch their breathes, the Bulldogs completed a great, leaping pass play to midfield, followed by running plays that powered them into the Miners red zone. Then in the blink of an eye, Ocoee uncorked a quick strike slant-pass into the end zone for their third TD! This time the PAT was no good.  But, as the half ended, Ocoee had a commanding 22-0.

Moving into the second half, Ocoee kept the pedal to the metal. Scoring two more touchdowns, they pushed the score up to 36-0.
But, under a running clock, the tough Reno Miners never quit. They powered back with two touchdowns of their own. As Coach  Midleton told us, “That was only the second time in this entire season that s team scored that many points on us. Those Miners stayed tough.”

But today belonged to Ocoee and , if you were Tweeting a description of this contest , it might have read “ #toomuchspeed “.

By the final whistle, the Bulldogs won this one by a score of 42-12, giving Ocoee the Pop Warner Unlimited National Championship  and bringing a whole lot of respect back to the Mid-Florida Conference. 

Congratulations to the Ocoee Bulldogs and the Reno Miners on their great showing at Pop Warner Super Bowl-2015. Hope to see both teams back here to rekindle their rivalry in 2016!
Pop Warner Football - As All-American as Mom, Apple Pie and...NASCAR?
by Bob Field, Jr.- Thursday, December 11, 2015
You bet! From Daytona Beach to Richmond, North Carolina to New Hampshire, the lessons learned from the Pop Warner Experience are as powerful as a high-tuned stock car. “Say what?” Yes, yes…that analogy actually fits. Want proof?

You see, by the time he retired as a driver on the NASCAR circuit in 2000, NASCAR’s legendary Darrell Waltrip had won 84 races, three championships and more total honors than even the most diehard racing fan can quickly recite. And, that’s been just the start.  

As one of the most decorated drivers in NASCAR's history, the first to reach $10 million in career earnings and, later, a popular and outspoken commentator for NASCAR on Fox, it's clear that Darrell Waltrip knows what it takes to hit the finish line ahead of the competition. 

So, when he decided to pass along his winning ways as head coach of the Ormond Beach Panthers of Pop Warner’s Southeast Region, both players and parents were all ears.

Darrell Waltrip is just one of many leaders, from all walks of life, who list Pop Warner on their outstanding resumes.. Take music’s Bon Jovi, Sean Paul Combs (aka “Diddy”) and rapper-turned-benefactor Snoop Dogg, for instance. As youngsters, both Snoop Dogg and Bon Jovi played Pop Warner. And, both Snoop and Sean “Diddy” Combs once coached Pop Warner teams.

And, the skills and confidence that the Pop Warner Experience provide to participants of all ages can lead in more different directions than you might imagine.

Take the case of Reed Davis for instance:

"Run-Back/Rear-Back! – Turf-to-Pool…Attack! Attack!"
Pop Warner Champ to Water Polo MVP – Dr. Phillips Star Became A Two- Sport Stalwart

“Ahhh…D-P!  Ahhhh…D-P!!”  Any Pop Warner fan who’s ever seen a team from Dr. Phillips play knows that this is a Central Florida organization that thrives on disciplined, heads-up, hard-nosed competition.

The tradition of football players who’ve worn the D-P “black ‘n blue” grows every year. Just watch them compete at this week’s 59th Pop Warner Super Bowl Week and you’ll know what I mean. 

And, in case you’re wondering what sort of lessons all that “D-P” tradition of disciplined, heads-up, hard-nosed play can lead to beyond Pop Warner, consider the achievements of one Reed Davis!

“Reed played seven years of Pop Warner for Dr. Phillips,” says his proud dad and Disney Cast Member Dan Davis. “Talk about an outstanding experience! When Dr. Phillips went to the 2006 Pop Warner Super Bowl, Reed played on a terrific team…Reed, Trey, Matt, Robbie…Talk about a talented bunch!

They played together as a team that was tough to stop.  And, I think it was that experience with Pop Warner that gave Reed the chance to do well academically, as well as in another sport entirely.”

And, that “other sport” ?  Well, folks, Reed Davis went from being a good-hands offensive and defensive stand-out with Dr. Phillips Pop Warner Football to being named the “Player of the Year” for Dr. Phillips High School in…wait for it…Water Polo! That’s right. From turf-to-pool, the journey of Reed Davis has been totally cool!

So, how did it all happen?  Well, as the late, great Yogi Berra once said, “You can observe a lot by just watching” And, “watching” his older sister play water polo for Dr. Phillips High sure helped Reed to “observe” the kind of competitive challenge that he sensed his Pop Warner football experience could equip him for quite well.

“When Reed was in 8th grade, he started thinking seriously about making the jump from the gridiron to the pool. His ability to take a hit in water polo was no big thing for Reed. I think it was the competitive, physical side of football that gave him the confidence to go all-out in what was, for him, a totally new sport.”

Something sure clicked for Reed, all right. It seemed that he was right at home in all the thrash, splash, strategy and quick-strike action of water polo.  As Dan recalls, “ I remember his first game on varsity as a freshman.  He played one of the whole defense positions.

After that first varsity game, one of the refs came up to our Dr. Phillips coach,  Leo Ramirez,  and said “ That kid on defense is really something.’ Coach Leo thought he might be referring to the other defenseman, who was a senior that year. But, the ref said, ‘No, I mean that # 8, the young kid. He is a great player! ’Yep, that was Reed, all right. And, right away, lots of people began to see that Reed D seemed pretty at home with his new sports challenge.”

Not only was Reed at home in the wet ‘n wild action of water polo, he quickly became a team leader and a standout player for Dr. Phillips High. His junior year he helped Dr. Phillips reach the Florida state quarterfinal championships of water polo. And, in his senior year, Reed Davis was voted Central Florida Water Polo “Player of the Year”!

Today, Reed applies his work ethic and discipline to pursuing a degree at University of Central Florida.  And, yes, he still has time for the pool. “Right now, he’s coaching water polo club-sport at UCF,” Dan tells us. “And, who knows?

Someday he may be looking to coach on the high school level. To me, I really think it all started with the fantastic experience Reed had playing Pop Warner football.”

Yep, every year I come down to the Pop Warner Super Week, the stories abound in how the great game of youth football, played the right way, the “Pop Warner” way, has pointed young people in the right direction to apply team awareness, discipline, solid fundamentals and equally solid work ethic to making them confident, versatile “do’ers”. Congrats to Dr. Phillips and the Davis family for continuing another super Pop Warner tradition!

As I said earlier, “Pop Warner- The Experience” . It’s as All-American as Apple, Mom and…well, you name it!
GMSF Pop Warner - Sunshine, Pride & Winning Tradition

by Bob Field, Jr.- Wednesday, December 10, 2015
When it comes to Pop Warner Super Bowl football tradition, nobody stakes a more legitimate claim to tops honors than Pop Warner Greater Miami – South Florida.

A close look at popwarner.com (under "Championship Archive" & "Past Champions") shows that, over the past fifteen years and across the board from Jr. Pee Wee to Midgets, Great Miami – South Florida has amassed some 15 titles. In a word…"Wow!" And, they just may add to that total this weekend.

With Tamiami facing Ward 5 for the Division II Midget Championship on Friday and the Gwen Cherry Bulls playing the Virginia Beach Mustangs for both the Division I Pee Wee and Jr. Midgets championships in Saturday’s action, Greater Miami-South Florida Pop Warner Football is primed to build on a winning tradition that just keeps growing.

Speed, toughness and tenacity are marks of GMSF PW teams. Add to it coaches who emphasize solid football fundamentals and good team play and it’s no wonder that GMSF PW teams are favorites to add more gold to their resume with each and every appearance here at ESPN Wide World of Sports.

And, for those fans who love to track the careers of Pop Warner Football grads, consider some of the following...Antonio Brown - Pittsburgh Steelers, T.Y. Hilton and Frank Gore – Indianapolis Colts and Teddy Bridgewater – Minnesota Vikings, just to name a few. That’s right. All of them top NFL talent, and each of them Pop Warner graduates from GMSF.  

The Greater Miami Pop Warner League was chartered by Pop Warner Little Scholars, Inc., a national non-profit organization, in 1972, as the governing body of its eight associated member parks in Miami – Dade County. Greater Miami - S. Florida Pop Warner now provides an organized tackle football and cheerleading program for over 8000 children, from 4 to 15 years of age, in Miami-Dade County.

The League now consists of 25 member associations, which provide the facilities and equipment to run the programs at various parks in the county.  GMSF  estimates that the associations’ football and cheer coaches alone volunteer in excess of 60,000 man hours during the actual season. And this does not include the volunteer hours spent during the remainder of the year required to organize and maintain the association or league operations.

The mission of GMSF is to enable local children to benefit from participation in team sports and activities in a structured and safe environment. And, as with all Pop Warner programs, GMSF works to instill the fundamental values of teamwork, dedication and a positive work ethic in young people, both on and off the field of play.
Miners Bag Falcons in Unlimited Play

by Bob Field, Jr.- Wedneday, December 9, 2015
“Ball control” is, more often than not, the key to playing consistently winning football. And, in today’s semi-final of Pop Warner Unlimited Division play here at ESPN Wide World of Sports, the Reno Miners deployed their relentless ground game, and a hard nosed defense, to wear down the talented New Fairfield Falcons. But, nothing came easily for the Miners today.

New Fairfield opening the scoring in this highly anticipated game by
moving downfield and scoring on a nifty pass play into the flat from 15 yards out for a touchdown. The PAT was no good. But, at 3:00 to go in the first quarter, New Fairfield had the lead at 6-0.

It didn’t take long for the Miners to counter.  On the very next series, their tailback busted through a gapping hole in the Falcons defense and rolled 80 yards for the tying touchdown. The PAT kick was good and at 2:12 to go in the first, Reno had taken the lead 8-6.

On the Falcons next series, the Miners defense stiffened, forcing New Fairfield to punt. That’s where “ball control” started to become a factor. Driving downfield with their methodical ground game, the Miners ended a long, sustained drive by pounding the ball in from the 5 yard line for their second TD.  Again, the PAT kick was good and as the first half ended, Reno extended its lead to 16-6 over the Falcons.

In the third quarter, it looked as if a rejuvenated Falcons team would fly in for their second score. A long pass play, with a penalty for a “horse collar” tackle tacked on, put the Falcons in the Miners red zone.  On the next play, it looked as if the Falcons might have inched the ball across the goal line. But, the Falcons were judged to be short, by inches. The next three New Fairfield plays were snuffed by the tough Miners defense, and Reno regained control.

These two outstanding teams battled each other to a draw for the rest of the third and into the fourth quarter.

Finally with 8:00 to go in the game, Reno’s offense ripped off a nifty 40 yard run, driving the ball down to the Falcons 30 yard line. Controlling the action, Reno pounded down to the 3 yard line.
On the very next play, The Miners tailback swept left, cut back and sailed into the end zone untouched for the score.  This time the Falcons defense stormed through to block the Miners PAT kick attempt.  But, with 6:40 to go in the game, Reno’s lead over New Fairfield had grown to 22-6.

With the Falcons quarterback hampered by an injured shoulder, their usually stellar passing game was badly compromised. Turning to their run game, the Falcons faced a tough Reno defense that began to key on New Fairfield’s running back. The Falcons “O” line was not able to contain the hard rushing Reno defensive line and blitzing secondary. That combined challenge kept New Fairfield from gaining, and sustaining, any real rhythm on offense.

But, the Falcons never gave up. With less than two minutes to go, the Falcons took a Miners’ punt and raced down to the Reno 30 yard line. But, on fourth down, with the ball on the Miners 28 yard line and 20 seconds left in the game, a long pass by the Falcons tailback just barely eluded the grasp of the Falcons wide receiver as he hit the end zone.  The Miners gained possession, took a knee, and this hard- fought game was over.

Congratulations to the Reno Miners on their 22-6 win. And, congratulations, as well, to a solid New Fairfield Falcons team that fought hard, but came up a little short today. 

Best of luck to the Miners as they now advance to the Pop Warner Unlimited Championship game on Friday, where they will meet a powerful team from Ocoee.
Outlaws Prevail on Goal Line Stand

by Bob Field, Jr.- Tuesday, December 8, 2015
The Ft. Collins Jr, Pee Wee Outlaws flew from the wide skies of Colorado into Florida this week with their eyes on the prize. They aimed to lasso a Pop Warner National Championship. And now, on Friday, they will finally get their chance. But, it took a full tilt, Wild West rodeo-style effort today from the Front Range boys to punch their ticket to the title game.

Under gorgeous, sun-drenched conditions this morning, the Outlaws took on the Ponte Vedra Sharks from California. The flashy Sharks from the Far West featured a southpaw quarterback, and some high-flying receivers, who’d propelled them to an opening day 28-0 victory here at ESPN Wide World of Sports over the Hyde Park Cowboys of Massachusetts. Meanwhile, the Outlaws had stormed to victory in their opener over the Wenatchee Hawks by a score of 37-0.

Yet, for the first quarter of today’s game, these two high scoring teams saw their defenses keep things to a scoreless first quarter
0-0 tie.

Then, with 8:00 minutes to go in the half, it was time for the two offenses to get in gear. The Sharks struck first. True to form, a long Ponte Vedra drive into Outlaw territory was capped by a 20 yard pass-and-run into the right corner of the end zone. The PAT was no good and the Sharks lead remained 6-0.

But, Ft. Collins came roaring back in spectacular fashion. On their next possession, facing a fourth and six from the 50 yard line, the Outlaws’ quarterback rolled right, stopped, and threw a beautiful spiral deep downfield.  The Outlaws wide receiver caught ball in full stride and sprinted the all the way, untouched, for the tying touchdown. The Ft. Collins kicker then calmly booted the ball cleanly over the crossbar and the Outlaws closed out the half by vaulting into the lead at 8-6.

In the third quarter the teams again saw good defense rule. But, the fourth quarter saw the offensive fireworks return. The Sharks capped another long drive by pounding off the left side of the Outlaws line for a TD.  Again the PAT was no good, but the Sharks had recaptured the lead at 12-6.  

The Sharks held Ft. Collins on the next series and took over on offense, again. But, this time, the Outlaws defense jarred the ball loose and recovered on their own 42 yard line.

Ft. Collins now launched an air strike of their own by completing a beaut of a pass in the flat for ten yards.  Two plays later, their tailback swept right on a reverse and sailed 31 yards into the end zone for the touchdown. The PAT was missed. But, Ft. Collins now led Ponte Verde by a narrow 14-12 margin.

The Sharks were still very much in this game, though. And, with 4:20 seconds left to play, they began a determined drive downfield.  Each time the Outlaws defense seemed ready to rope them for good, the Sharks found a way to wriggle free. Facing fourth-and-long twice in the drive, they completed long passes to their leaping, sure-handed receivers to keep the drive going.

With 1:07 to go in the game, the Sharks had the ball on the Outlaws 17 yard line. They pounded ahead on two running plays. But, although giving some ground, the Outlaws swarming defense kept the Sharks out of the end zone. 

Finally, with 4 seconds left in the game, the ball on the 1ft line and fans on both sides of the fields going crazy, the Sharks tried desperately to spike the ball and stop the clock. Too late! This one was over. Outlaw players, and coaches jumped for joy and Colorado fans roared. Somehow Ft. Collins defense had prevailed to preserve their 14-12 win.

Wow! What a game! Congratulations to both teams. Kudos to the Sharks for a never-say-die drive that almost stole the show. And, hats off to the Outlaws for answering every Sharks challenge, both offensively and defensively, with an effort that just couldn’t be topped!

Ft. Collins now moves on to the D-II Jr. Pee Wee National Championship game on Friday against the Fort Osage Indians from Missouri, winners over the Ward 5 Warriors by a score of 20-6. If today’s game is any indication, Friday’s contest should be a classic!
Bulls Best Jets in Up-Tempo Thrillers

by Bob Field, Jr.- Monday, December 7, 2015
Speed is a huge advantage for teams blessed with speed-burners here at Pop Warner Super Bowl Week. And, when two teams match up with plenty of speed on either side, wow! No better evidence of that can be found than last night’s Division I Jr. Midget set-to between the Far West Jets and the Gwen Cherry Bulls.

From the opening kickoff, this game was a study in sharp, quick-strike efficiency.
You might say, Pop Warner staged a track meet last night, and a football game broke out!

In the early going, the Jets and Bulls raced out to an 8-8 tie. Then, with 7:40 to go in the half and Gwen Cherry in possession, pinned back on their 8 yard line, the Bulls tailback took a pitch-out, cut to the outside, and turned on the after –burner, racing 92 yards for a TD.  The PAT kick was good and the Bulls grabbed the lead 16-8.

On Far West’s next possession, they threw to their wide receiver. But, the pass was tipped and picked-off by an alert Bulls safety on the Jets 30 yard line. Four plays later, the Bulls slammed into the end zone and Gwen Cherry’s lead climbed to 22-8. 

But, Far West was not about to give up.  With 2:24 left in the first half, the Jets roared back, breaking from the huddle, hustling to the line, and rolling off play- after-play.  Finally, the Bulls defense held, and Gwen Cherry took over deep in their own territory.

This time, the Jets defensive was equal to the challenge. On fourth down for the Bulls, the Jets line stormed through to block a punt and recover on the Gwen Cherry 22 yard line. Two plays later, the Jets connected on a 15 yard pass play, with their wide receiver diving for the pylon and into the end zone. The PAT kick was good and, as the first half ended, the Jets had narrowed the Bulls lead to 22-16.

The third quarter looked to be a carbon copy of the opening stanza as both teams moved the ball quickly. This time, the Arizona boys tallied first on a nifty pass play. The PAT was no good. Still, the strong effort by Far West had this game all locked up at 22-22.

But, the speed-burning backs from Gwen Cherry wasted no time in ripping off big runs that took the ball down to the Far West 1 yard line where, with 51 seconds left in the third quarter, they punched the ball in for the TD.  The PAT was no good, but Gwen Cherry had grabbed a 28-22 lead.

Finally, with 6:08 to go in this great game, Gwen Cherry began to pull away with another 1 yard touchdown run. Then, with 3:24 to go in the game, the Bulls peeled off a 15 yard scorcher of a run for a touchdown that brought the score to 40-22.

But, Far West never quit. Ripping off a terrific kickoff return, they looked primed to score again. But, the clock, and a “bend–but-don’t-break” Gwen Cherry defense, brought this great contest to a close.

Congratulations to Gwen Cherry and Far West on a well-played, up-tempo game! Now, Gwen Cherry advances to meet a very tough Naperville Patriots team, while Far West meets the Morgan Hill Raiders in a Jr. Midget consolation game. Both games are scheduled for Wednesday, right here at magical ESPN Wide World of Sports.
Quakertown Topples Titans In Final Seconds

by Bob Field, Jr.- Sunday, December 6, 2015
As any fan knows, sometimes football games are won on sheer power, while other times they’re won on sheer grit. By the end of this morning’s Division I Jr. Pee Wee game between the Quakertown (PA) Panthers and the Loveland (CO) Titans, “power” was trumped by “grit”. But, just barely!

Going into this second day of Pop Warner Super Bowl Week 2015, edge-of-the-seat closers have already started to become a regular occurrence. And, by the time the referees whistled an unfortunate penalty to nullify what would have been a crazy, insane, last second game-busting dash to glory, this contest had already staked its claim to a spot on the roster of “All-Time Best” Pop Warner Super Bowl Games. Here’s how it all happened.

The tough Titans from the Rockies of Loveland, Colorado came to this year’s Pop Warner Super Bowl Week with a reputation for swarmin’, stormin’ defense, carried down from a memorable run by Loveland to a runners-up finish in last year’s D-I Jr. Midget Championship game.

And, on the other side of the field today, the Quakertown Panthers contrasted Colorado’s sheer power with sheer grit that stemmed from bouncing back after three consecutive early season losses to battle, battle, and battle some more towards gaining their rightful slot at Pop Warner Super Bowl 2015.

True-to-form, during first quarter action in today’s opening round Jr. Pee Wee game, Loveland and Quakertown hammered away at each other to the tune of a scoreless tie. 

Then, in the second quarter, the Titans relied on their power game to start drive down the field. Then suddenly they struck from the air on a 50-yard touchdown pass. The PAT was no-good. But, the way this game was progressing, it looked like that six-point margin just might hold up. 

The third quarter looked much like the first, with both teams’ offenses stymied by punishing defenses. And, by late in the fourth quarter, with the Titans in possession and about a minute to play in the game, it appeared more certain than ever that their sole tally would propel the high-mountain lads to victory. But, that’s when grit, with a capital “G”, grabbed the upper hand.

On  third down from their own 30 yard line, with just over a minute to play, the Titans quarterback set up in a shotgun formation. But, the snap from center went a little high. The quarterback bobbled the ball and a pride of Panthers pounced on it for the turnover.

With the clock ticking down to under 30 seconds, the Panthers used three plays to move the down to the Titans 9 yard line. Then, on a do- or-die, fourth down and goal to go, the Panthers running back swept left. Seeing that the Titans outside linebacker and defensive end had both set the edge, he suddenly made like Stanford’s RB Christian McCaffrey and cut back sharply to the middle, knifing into the end zone for the tying touchdown and sending the Quakertown crowd into a frenzy!

Lining up for the PAT, it looked as if the Titans were prepped to smother any Quakertown attempt at a roll-out pass. But, instead, the plucky Panthers pitched to their running back who sprinted left, again. This time, behind two crushing blocks, he outraced the Titans secondary and dived into the corner of the end zone with the go-ahead point. 

The gritty drive to a sudden 7-6 lead sent the Panther rooters leaping and cavorting with delirious joy. “19 seconds left to play and the Panthers ahead 7-6.  This great game was finally over, right?” Well, to echo Lee Corso’s famous retort, “NOT so fast, my friend!”

The subsequent kickoff to the Titans was returned to their own 40 yard.  Then, in an all-out gamble, the Loveland quarterback rolled left, faking a run.  The Panthers cornerback bit on the fake and, at the last second, Loveland’s quarterback popped a short pass to an open receiver. He caught the ball, turned and set sail down the left sideline. With the Loveland fans roaring, he raced all the way into the end zone. But, wait! Two flags lay ominously on the field. The Titans were offside on the play. With 3 seconds left in the game, the Titans re-set. Loveland’s quarterback rolled right.
But, this time, he found all his receivers covered. He tucked the ball in for about an 8 yard gain before he was swarmed by Panther defenders, just as the clock ran out!

Yes, “Grit” has been the operative word for the Quakertown Panthers all season. And, “Grit” propelled them today!

Congratulations to both the Loveland Titans and the Quakertown Panthers for a terrific game. Good luck to both teams in their next games on Wednesday at beautiful ESPN Wide World of Sports.
South Carolina Makes First Trip to Super Bowl

by Bob Field, Jr.- Sunday, December 6, 2015
In another first round Pop Warner Unlimited Division this morning, the Carolina Hurricanes took on the Reno Miners. But, instead of being yet another Pop Warner team from Raleigh/Durham or Stanley, these ‘Canes hail from Columbia, S.C., making them the first South Carolina team to qualify for the Pop Warner Super Bowl.

It’s a big stage here at ESPN Wide World of Sports, and for a good part of the first half of their opener, the big stage may have contributed to the “Canes loss of focus on both sides of the ball. But, although trailing in the second quarter to the boys from the high desert by a score of 24-0, the ‘Canes suddenly regained that focus.

With their offense pounding down the field, Carolina ripped through the Reno “D” line and bounced off their secondary to register a hard earned touchdown of their own. The PAT was no good. But, the ‘Canes had cut the Miners lead to 24-6 at the half.

Yet, this day, and the big stage, belonged to Reno. In the second half, the tough Miner “O” line, its determined running backs, and its swarming defense proved to be too much for the gritty ‘Canes. Just as suddenly,  the scoring storm they’d summoned up at the end of the first half became a mild breeze by game’s end.

With the Miners closing out this onee by a final score of 44-6, they now move on to play the high flying New Fairfield Falcons in the second round of Pop Warner Unlimited Division championship play.

Meanwhile, the Hurricanes have another opportunity to notch a first-ever South Carolina win here at the Pop Warner Super Bowl as they take on the tough Bergan County Stars in a consolation game on Wednesday. And, wouldn’t a 1-1 record in their first of what may be many more trips to the place where dreams-come-true be something for the Carolina Hurricanes to savor. We shall see on Wednesday
Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em Unlimited!

by Bob Field, Jr.- Sunday, December 6, 2015
A sunny Sunday morning here at ESPN Wide World of Sports as the BIG boys took to the gridirons. In a category of play that allows for players 11-14 yrs old to range in weight from 105 lbs to …as the name suggests…“unlimited”… there are plenty of large young dudes out there! That means the Pop Warner Unlimited Division games here at Pop Warner Super Bowl Week always provide fans with plenty of hard running, crisp passing, and rock-ribbed defense. And, this morning’s Pop Warner Unlimited games were no exception.

Falcons Soar Over Stars!

When the Falcons from New Fairfield, CT lined up against the high-powered Bergan County Region Stars, fans from New England and the Northeast knew that this game would be a doozey. And, fans from Florida soon found out that these two Northern teams could match the Florida heat with their fiery style of play.

The first quarter was a back and forth defensive struggle, with neither team being able to put points on he board. But, in the second quarter, New Fairfield finally broke free with a scintillating 75 yard romp down the left side to pay dirt.  The point-after-touchdown was “no good”, and the Falcons held on to finish the first half on top by a slim 6-0 score.

The third quarter featured more tough defense by both teams, resulting in another scoreless stanza. But, the fourth quarter provided drama aplenty as both teams took to the ai- with stunning results.

The boys from Bergen County struck first on a 55 yard pass and run for the tying TD. Then they slammed the ball into the end zone for a single point-after-touchdown to take a slim 7-6 lead.

But, with 6:14 to go in the game, New Fairfield answered the BCRS tally. With the ball at midfield, the Falcons quarterback rolled back and uncorked a beautiful spiral to a streaking wide receiver, hitting him in stride for 50 yard touchdown.  The point after attempt was blocked, but the Falcons had soared back into the lead at 12-7.

After that, despite the mounting heat of late morning, the Falcons defense dug deep, stepped up, and smothered two Stars drives.

With less than a minute to play, the Falcons regained possession, took a knee twice,  and this hard-fought Unlimited game was theirs by the final score of 12-7.

Talking to us about the pass that put the Falcons up for good, Falcons coaches said that they read what the defense was giving them, hand-signaled to a check from a run to the pass play, and the rest clicked perfectly. 

This Falcons team was actually well-schooled in what it takes to win games down-the-stretch. Want proof? Try this. In their run to the Pop Warner Super Bowl-2015, the Falcons found themselves down by two scores to West Haven midway through the fourth quarter. But, instead of hanging their heads, they put the pedal-to-the-metal, tallied three touchdowns in the final six minutes, and won the game!  There’s that old adage again…”Good things can happen when you never give up!”

Congratulations to the Stars and the Falcons on a great game; one that sets New Fairfield up to take on a powerful Reno Miners team in the next round of championship play for the Pop Warner Unlimited Division.
Rangers Rope Titans in DII Pee Wee Opener

by Bob Field, Jr.- Saturday, December 5, 2015
Every year at Pop Warner Super Bowl Week we find a whole slew of games that underscore the age-old adage, “Never quit…Never ever quit”, even and especially when the odds are stacked against you. Anyone lucky enough to see the amazing D-II Pee Wee first round game between the Parkland Rangers and the Wake Forest Titans knows precisely what why the wisdom in that adage holds true again, and again, and again.

With the clock ticking down on the final minute of this back ‘n forth beauty of a game, and Parkland finding itself on the short end of a 22-16 score, the Rangers tightened their belts and drove down the field into Titan territory.

Then, with 19 seconds left, the Rangers QB turned and fired a pass to their left side wide-out who tucked in behind a wall of blockers.  With Rangers fans roaring, he outraced the Titans secondary down the sideline for the tying touchdown! The Parkland place-kicker then stepped up and calmly booted the points after TD cleanly through the uprights to make the score Rangers 24-Titans 22.  

In the final 10 seconds, the Titans gave it their all, advancing the ball to their own forty yard line, but it was not to be. As the jubilant Rangers players and coaches hugged, cried, and savored their fantastic come-from-behind win, Rangers fans roared out their theme for the day, the week, and the entire season, “We Don’t Quit! We Don’t Quit!”

A happy and exhausted Parkland Head Coach Ed Hoffman said it all when he said, “That was probably the greatest comeback I’ve ever been associated with as a player or a coach. Our kids did a fantastic job of believing in themselves and never giving up. “  Absolutely, Coach!

Congratulations to BOTH the Rangers and the Titans on a game that, for thrills, excitement and lessons-to-live by, made this one a Pop Warner Super Bowl classic!
MITEY MITES RULE!

by Bob Field, Jr.- Saturday, December 5, 2015
Under a golden sky, players from all the teams in today’s late afternoon slate of Mitey Mite Bowl games sat proudly around the BIG Pop Warner logo adorning the hillside outside the Josten Center at ESPN Wide World of Sports. And, into this great gathering strode everybody’s Disney pal, “GOOFY”,  shaking hands, posing for photos and videos, and congratulating all the kids and coaches on this great day of football fun and newfound friendships.

What a super ending to an exciting day, and a super preview of tonight’s Mitey Mite Party, full of more fun and fellowship for all!

The action we saw today in the Mitey Mite jamboree format gave promise of a future for Pop Warner Football that is as bright as the sea of colorful uniforms gathered around the big Pop Warner hillside logo.

As the kids donned medals and exchanged handshakes and hugs all around, I had a chance to speak with some Mitey Mite players, coaches and parents.  Every one of them praised the terrific experience of participating in a great day, and a super season, of Pop Warner Mitey Mite football.

Jesse Gonzalez, who plays for the undefeated Vikings of California’s Bay Area relished the team spirit of this day. “Our second game was really good. That game against the Leopards was really tight at 8-6. Then, we got going and scored two touchdowns to win 20-6. It was lots of fun.” Jesse is following in the footsteps of his cousin Jordan Davenport who’s also playing Pop Warner football, and loving it.

From the Hernando Leopards team that gave the Vikings a solid game, young Chris Cresser echoed Jesse’s feelings about the fun of the day. “ It was HUGE!”, said Chris with a smile a mile wide!

And, if anybody doubts that youth football, played the right way, the Pop Warner way, is alive and well, just take a listen to Coach Ricco Jones from the Detroit Hurricanes. Click on the link here

Man, that is one happy coach, and a great teacher, who knows that Pop Warner football continues to help young people grow physically, emotionally, scholastically, athletically and socially into outstanding leaders in school, at home and in their community! “Go Mitey-Mites, Go!”
MITEY MITES LEAD THE CHARGE!

by Bob Field, Jr.- Saturday, December 5, 2015
It’s fitting that the first folks to hit the field this Saturday are the kids, coaches and volunteers who’ve learned to play the game of football the right way, the Pop Warner way, right from the very start.

We’re talkin’ Pop Warner Mitey-Mite football, of course!  And, this opening day of Pop Warner Super Bowl Week lets the little guys shine. Solid fundamentals are at the core of Pop Warner Mitey-Mite play. And, with coaches on the field between plays to keep squads sharp, the 14 teams here for Mitey Bowl 2015 are all about having a blast playing good, heads up football !  Here’s the way it works…

All Mitey-Mite teams play two games today, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. All Mitey-Mite Bowl games are an hour in length, with a running clock. The action is just as fast, and the players are just as determined, as the older kids. And, for pure, all out fun, it’s hard to beat these mighty fine Mighty-Mites!

I had a chance this morning to watch the Boston Raiders and the Englewood Bobcats (Florida) take to the gridiron. The two teams went back and forth in this  good game. Then, the ‘Cats put together a couple of great drives that featured end- sweeps and off- tackle runs,  behind solid blocking, to punch across three touchdowns.

Even though the Bobcats took this first game 20-7, I realized that it’s about much more than the score for these Mitey Mites and their mentors. Bobcats Head Coach Shane Whitmore put it best when he said, “We take pride in the way we play. And, we teach the kids to respect the game, the officials, and the fans on both sides of the field. We tell our kids to ‘walk small, but carry a big stick.’
Part of that stems from the fact that we are a small town, but one with pride and a desire to sell this wonderful game of football all over our tough Peace River Conference.”

And speaking of respect for the game, Coach Witmore, and all the Pop Warner Mitey Mite coaches here today, stress good fundamentals and safe play. Coach Whitmore has coached for 16 years on all levels of football from high school down to Pop Warner Tiny Mites. “For me, ‘Head’s Up’ play is what it’s all about. ‘Heads Up’ blocking  and ‘Heads-Up’ tackling are what makes Pop Warner football safer than soccer or even girls lacrosse. The statistics prove that. And, we want people to know the facts. “

And, the best way to “sell” the Pop Warner approach to playing youth football the safe way, and the fundamentally solid way, is to see how the kids, coaches and families of Mitey Mite football go about learning and growing with this great game.

And, how do Mitey Mite parents feel about this super day?  Renee and Chris, who drove 150 miles to today’s games and to watch their son Dante play for the Bobcats, told us, “Our kids love Pop Warner ! Dante is playing football today and his sister is cheering later this week. And, we have another son who played 7 years of Pop Warner. Pop Warner has been just an excellent experience for all of us.”

They may walk small, but these Mitey Mites can deliver the big stick! Look for more Mitey Mite action as the day rolls on!!
We’re Mighty Fine At “59”!

by Bob Field, Jr.- Saturday, December 5, 2015

Hey there, Pop Warner fans! Pardon my unbounded enthusiasm, but the sun is shining the sky is blue, the Central Florida weather is primo and the buses are rolling-in again at ESPN Wide World of Sports for Pop Warner’s big event!

How time flies! This year marks the 59th annual Pop Warner Super Bowl. And, that means, Pop Warner fans from Osaka-to-Ocoee are gathered at the place where dreams-come-true for a fabulous week of football showcasing Pop Warner teams in age and weight divisions ranging from Tiny Mites to Midgets.

And, this year, in addition to annual national championship brackets involving Division I and Division II teams, the football slate at Pop Warner Super Bowl Week will kickoff with another full slate-Saturday of Mitey Mite football and two, first-ever, Division III Bowl Games. Yep, Pop Warner is expanding to include even more teams from regions and towns of all sizes.

And, joining us for a celebration of Pop Warner’s expansion, internationally, will be some 60 players and 20 or more adult volunteers and fans from Pop Warner’s “Chestnut League” in Osaka.  That’s right.  Our Japanese friends will be on hand for all the fun, fellowship and new friendships that make Pop Warner Super Bowl Week one of the best youth sports events worldwide!

This will be my 21st year of reporting from a fan’s point of view at this amazing week of Pop Warner football, cheer and dance. And, believe me, it all continues to be one of my favorite times of the year!

If you are anywhere near Lake Buena Vista, Florida, come on over to the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex this week for all the action and thrills.  The fun begins today, Saturday, December 5, with 14 teams in the Mitey-Mite division taking to the gridiron. Tiny-Mites will also get their day in the sun. And, on Monday, December 7 and Thursday, December 10, be sure to catch the first-ever games in the Pop Warner D-III Bowl.

Pop Warner fans who can’t make it down here, fret not. ESPN will be broadcast some 24 games, divided between ESPN U and ESPN 3. Watch for a listing of those games on the Pop Warner Super Bowl website.

And, that’s not all!  Next Friday, ESPN Sports Center will be broadcastings “live” from Field 17 at ESPN Wide World of Sports - 11:00 am- 1:00 pm. Watch for Pop Warner Super Bowl interviews, features, highlights and more on ESPN all week long!  And, be sure to catch the D-1 Midget Championship “live”, Saturday, December 12 on ESPN U, with a repeat broadcast on Sunday, December 19 on ESPN 2.

Yes, Pop Warner fans, we’re fine at “59” and getting’ better all the time! Watch for more “Field Notes” blogging and videos as we get set to whistle the opening kickoff on Pop Warner Super Bowl Week- 2015!
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