By Jodie Wagner – Reporter
Palm Beach Post Article
The Palm Beach Gardens Gators and Royal Palm Beach Wildcats won national championships Friday at the Pop Warner Super Bowl in Orlando.
ORLANDO — A pair of Palm Beach County Pop Warner football teams won national championships last week.
The Royal Palm Beach Wildcats Junior Pee Wee team defeated the Far West (Ariz.) Tigers 34-0 in the Division 2 Pop Warner Super Bowl title game played Friday at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex. The Palm Beach Gardens Gators Junior Varsity team followed with a 38-6 win over Lenape Valley (Pa.) in its championship game.
The Super Bowl title was the second in a row for Palm Beach Gardens, which won the the Pee Wee division title last year with a 20-14 win over the Point Loma (Calif.) Pointers.
The Gators returned 15 players from last year’s team, and experience played a big role in their success this season.
“Coming off last year’s season, our expectation was to return to Disney,” said head coach Alton Butler, whose team finished 16-0 following Friday’s win. “We felt with new additions and returning players, we had a good chance.”
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Palm Beach Gardens was rarely challenged during its three-game Super Bowl series, which began Dec. 1 with a 30-0 quarterfinals win over the Milford (CT) Eagles.
The Gators then defeated the Deer Valley (AZ) Sparks 40-8 in the semifinals Dec. 4 before closing out the championship Friday with a 32-point win against Lenape Valley.
The Wildcats had more of a challenge in their bracket.
Royal Palm Beach earned a 33-13 win over the Coastal (N.C.) Eagles in the quarterfinals Dec. 1, then pulled off a 19-12 win over the Brick City (N.J.) Lions in the semifinals Dec. 4. The Wildcats coasted in the championship game, posting their first shutout of the week-long competition.
“I’m very proud of my team and coaches,” head coach Samuel Curry said. “We set a goal August 1 to be national champions. A lot of people thought we were too young to compete this year, but we worked hard throughout the season to get better week by week. To see the final score 34-0 in the championship game was a very special moment for us.”
The Wildcats, with players ages 9-11, moved up an age division this season after competing in the Mitey Mites division last year.
Royal Palm Beach followed a 10-0 finish with a 15-1 record this season, dropping a regular-season contest to the Weston Warriors before turning the tables in the post-season with a 33-8 win.
“The key was keeping everyone healthy and fresh,” Curry said. “We got everyone involved and kept going over fundamentals. We put an emphasis on playing fast, smart and aggressive. The game before the national championship, our starting cornerback got hurt, but we had players ready to step up.”
Palm Beach Gardens players are: Tyler Aronson, Macai Lewin, Trent Neary, Trakwon Harris, Desean Butler, Darryl Sweeting, Alex St. Julien, Marcus McCoy, Jake Maffi, Alex Rosario, CJ Lizza, Michael Wright, Hunter Kenny, Aiden Malcolm, Elijah Hopkins, John Gideon, Keyontae Harvey, Chauncey Bowens, Xani Scott, Courtney Mathis, Joe Tuschman, Dante Crews, E.J. Roesch, Maliki Frett, Tucker Smith and Jackson Hamilton.
Royal Palm Beach players are: Caden Acosta, Damon Allen, Justin Allen, Timothy Allen, Shaimari Amilca, Fednor Belizaire, Micah Boggs, Rashon Brown, Victor Butts, Xavian Charles, Jeremiah Delbosquez, Zacharie Estime, Legend Felican, Jayden Francis, Jermaine Frederick, Brandon Garland, Hardley Gilmore, Tyree Pearson, Jr., Demond Pierce, Dereek Saint-Fleur, James Smith, Jamari Starling and Ryan Upson.