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North Pop Warner finishes up improbable regular season

By CHUCK BALLARO - | Oct 28, 2020

ABOVE: Sawyer Crowther heaves a pass downfield during North Fort Myers 10U 34-0 victory over South Naples at the Pop Warner regular season finale at North Fort Myers Community Park. BELOW: Jaynon Whitty scores one of his two touchdowns during North Fort Myers 10U 34-0 victory over South Naples. PHOTO BY CHUCK BALLARO


If you had asked anyone associated with the North Fort Myers Pop Warner program on July 15 if there was going to be a season, many of them said no.

Well at the end of October, they not only got the season started, but also finished it, with three football teams headed to the postseason as top seeds and all five cheer programs advancing to regionals.

The Red Knights finished the regular season at home at the North Fort Myers Community Park, with the two youngest squads going against Port Charlotte and the older three divisions playing the new South Naples program.

While the 6U and 8U programs struggled against one of the premier programs in the Peace River conference, the 10U, 12U and 14U teams had their way at Homecoming.

Steve Brown, athletic director and 12U coach, said three teams should make it to the playoffs. As for the younger teams, Brown said they have shown tremendous improvement.

“There has been a change in every one of those kids. Not only in their understanding of football, but also how they work together as a team,” Brown said. “The future looks great. We have a group of young kids coming up, and a group of parents involved in keeping their kids active in football and other sports.”

In the 10U game, North completed an amazing comeback this season after losing their first two games against very good competition by pummeling South Naples 34-0, scoring all their points in the first half to force a running clock the entire second half.

Jaymon Whitty scored twice, and Sawyer Crowther, Phillip Botsford and Jackson Moore also found the end zone for the Red Knights.

“After the third week, something clicked, and they have become a dominant football team since,” Brown said.

Brown’s 12U team also started slow, losing to Port Charlotte and Fort Myers in nail-biters before turning things around, winning five straight going into Saturday, with its 28-12 win giving them the top seed and a chance to play for the Peace River Conference championship for the fourth time in five years.

Most of Brown’s 12U team from last year are now playing in the unlimited 14U team, which has gone undefeated and has become the jewel of the football program, excelling in every phase of the game.

The team ended its regular season with a bullet, a 37-0 thrashing of South Naples even though it had cliched the top seed last week.

Meanwhile, the cheer program just had a successful weekend last week at the Peace River Conference championship at Hertz Arena. All five of their programs advanced to regionals.

Tandra Babcock, cheer director, said the JV and varsity squads each placed second, while the rest finished third — quite an accomplishment when you consider they didn’t know if they would have a team before the season.

“The last six or seven years we’ve had at least one team go to nationals. In mid-July we had 13 girls and ended up with 81,” Babcock said. “The parents were worried about COVID, but we had a safety plan, went over it with the parents, and they were good with it. It’s great the kids are able to do something that’s normal for them.”

The Peace River Championships will be Saturday at the Paradise Coast Sports Complex in Naples. The 10U team will play at noon, the 12U team at 2 p.m. and the 14U team will play at 4 p.m.