North captures three Pop Warner titles
What a difference two years makes.
On Saturday, in South Naples, the Red Knights won three Peace River Conference championships in the 10U, 12U and 14U divisions, allowing them to advance to regionals this Saturday in Tampa.
The 10U team thrashed Cape Youth 40-7, and the 12U team had to rally from behind to beat Cape Youth 15-11 while the 14U team blew the game open in the fourth quarter to defeat the Naples Hurricanes 30-6.
The 12U game was, by far, the most exciting, as the Red Knights needed a Ky’Moni Gordon two-yard touchdown run with 1:48 left in the game and an interception by J.J. Gary in the closing seconds to walk away with a 15-11 win and the 12U’s second consecutive conference crown.
Cape Coral got on the board first with a 22-yard field goal by Mason Sargis late in the first quarter, but North drove late in the first half, with A.J. Phillips connecting with Jayden Fenat-Taylor from 15 yards out with 10 seconds left to make it 8-3 after the two-point kick.
Cape Youth took command in the second half, and although a Brandon Bragg interception ended one drive, Sargis nearly broke North’s hearts when a 95-yard catch and run on third and long early in the fourth gave them an 11-8 lead, setting up the dramatic finish.
It was an ugly game for North, with three touchdowns being called back by penalties and defensive penalties giving Cape opportunities to score, but despite having a third of their team being first-time players, they found a way.
“Cape Coral is so well coached. You think you find a tendency and they change it. In eight quarters it came down to the final play twice. We sucked it up and made plays when it mattered,” 12U coach Steve Brown said.
The 14U game was also entertaining, at least for a while. North got off to a good start when Austin Price found Landon Remis with a 20-yard touchdown pass for a 6-0 lead.
But Naples used trickery to respond, as Dominick Davis found Niko Doyce on an option pass to tie the game at 6-6 late in the first quarter.
Slowly, the Red Knights took control. Omarion Walker had a run down the sideline midway through the second quarter to make it 14-6 after the two-point kick, and nearly padded the lead on a Ken’dohrus Green interception return for a touchdown, but it was called back.
Naples drove twice in the third quarter, but saw the first one stall at the North 15 and a second end on a fumble. The Red Knights made the Hurricanes pay as Walker scored on a 43-yard run early in the fourth quarter to make it 22-6.
North put the bow on things when Cobby Babernitch got a sack and fumble in the end zone, which Wyatt Milks pounced on for a touchdown and the 30-6 final score.
Darren Spires was thrilled to complete the North Fort Myers trifecta.
“It just shows how the organization is on the same page. I was blessed with a football team that is not only talented, but also smart and they play well together,” Spires said. “They work together and play hard.”
Only the 10U game was a rout. With a coaching staff that is all new, it brought a lot of experience elsewhere. After losing its first two games and winning no games the previous season, they turned things around in a hurry.
“We’ve seen this team twice this season and knew the third time would be the toughest. We told the kids and their parents it’s at practice that you get better,” said head coach Casey Crowther. “When you see the kids improve, there’s no better feeling.”
Jaynon Whitty scored three touchdowns, while Jaxton Moore and Sawyer Crowther also found paydirt.