Thoughts on the Pop Warner National Championships
While Pop Warner has it’s flaws like any organization, they seem to do a reasonably good job of setting up a National Championship venue at Disney. It seems to be a great goal for Pop Warner teams all over the nation to shoot for at seasons end. Several friends reported the details to me on several games and one good friend even sent me some great game tape. Another WYF coach was working the chains and giving me a heads up as well.
Many of you using the WYF system shared the drama of your quest to Disney with me by e-mail and even phone. Several of you even made it to the Final Four in Orlando, including the Port St Lucie Pirates at the Pee Wee level. Who by the way, knocked out another WYF team from Florida in the Regionals. Coach Jeff and his team finished just a hairsbreath from winning the National Title, coming about 3 inches short on a 4th quarter, 4th down play deep in Union, North Carolinas territory. They lost 28-22, but the score was much closer than that.
If memory serves, Union has been in the Finals each of the last 3 years, winning twice. Port St Lucie, “PSL” scored more points on Union than anyone in 2008, as Union had shut out nearly every opponent they faced this year. Our Single Wing heroes led most of the game and had this very athletic Union team on the ropes for most of the game, coming very close to taking a 2 score lead in the 2nd quarter. Union ran just 3 different plays for all but 4 of their offensive snaps. All 3 of these plays worked off each other in true “series” fashion. They threw just 1 pass (incomplete) and ran 3 other plays 1 time each. So much for the 50 play playbook. PSL probably ran 10 different plays, but did do some nice “formationing” things to offer Union a twist or two.
What really impressed me about Jeff’s team was the crisp execution and the intensity of his kids. They play to the whistle EVERY DOWN and put on quite a blocking clinic for a very surprised Union team in that first half. PSL got Union to jump their “no play” at least 4-5 times, so yes, it does work even against the best of teams. PSL runs the spinner as well as anyone I’ve ever seen and Jeff does an absolute superb job of gamesmanship and play calling. His best play, same as the rest of us, 16 Power and the Spinner 32.
His teams substituting and special teams play was about as good as I’ve seen, and I’ve been doing this for over 15 years. This is all evidence of a very well disciplined, well coached team. Heck they would have to be to beat one of the best coached teams in the country in the Regionals, our friends from Jupiter, Florida. Jupiter got there unexpectedly with an expansion team of sorts, and we all know how “drafted” expansion teams do in their first year. Quite a testament to the coaching skills of KMJ and DS.
Pop Warner’s has quite the venue at Disney. The fields are great and the circus like atmosphere makes the games feel much bigger than they are. The crowds are huge and not only include friends and relatives, but people like us who just like seeing good football. If you’ve never traveled with a team, it is an adventure the kids cherish for a lifetime. I still remember as a kid nearly 40 years ago when my team traveled to Nashville and Las Vegas to play games. I can still tell you my roommates name and what the scores of the games were.
While Jeff’s kids were heartbroken and in tears after the game, they were outstanding sports and I’m sure look back on that memory 30 years from now as a very positive one. Jeff’s kids kept their heads up and turned around and crushed a team from Port Aurther Texas 32-0 the following day. Congrats to Jeff and all the teams ( Except Dorchester, they were kicked out) that made it to Orlando and gave their kids a great youth football experience.
Think about what you are going to do in 2009 to try and get the most out of your team and make your own championship run, in the league your teams play in. What are you going to do different to get your kids to play as well as a team like Jeff’s.
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