A couple of scoring notes from the first few days of the Pop Warner Super Bowl
-- Defenses are winning. There were eight games on Saturday, and four of them were shutouts. There were six more shutouts on Sunday, including a tight 6-0 game between the New Haven (CT) Steelers and the Santa Margarita (CA) Mustangs. And of the four early games on Tuesday? Three of them were shutouts.
-- The most thrilling game so far might be Saturday's showdown between the Edgewood (TX) Seminoles and the Kernersville (NC) Raiders. The Raiders had an 18-6 lead at halftime but the Seminoles stormed back, scoring two second-half touchdowns and winning, 22-18.
-- The high score so far was turned in by the Division I Junior Midget White Oak (MD) Warriors. The Warriors are no strangers to the Pop Warner Super Bowl and they're once again proving to be one of the nation's best. They won their opening game, 40-6.
This is interesting article from the Star-Ledger in New Jersey on Pop Warner football, particularly for the 14- and 15-year olds who are still young enough to play Pop Warner but definitely old enough to play high school football, too.
Some schools in New Jersey have been forced to discontinue freshman football teams because so many players are sticking with Pop Warner in their early high school careers. The reasons? A strong loyalty to their coach and a chance to travel to Orlando and play in the Super Bowl.
This has forced some high school coaches to "recruit" players in their own boundaries to try to woo them from Pop Warner to high school football.
The Pop Warner coaches interviewed by the Star-Ledger says they encourage players to go play high school football when it's time. But they also welcome them if circumstances make high school football undesirable (like potential playing time).
It's an interesting debate. With nothing like AAU basketball or club soccer competing with high schools, you assume that high school football has a monopoly on 14- to 18-year old players. But that's not exactly the case.
A hectic week of football, cheerleading and dancing concluded Saturday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., with the four Division I championship games of the Pop Warner Super Bowl. The big winners where the White Oak Warriors, who had national-champion teams in two different age groups. One of the teams won last year, too, making it an impressive repeat.
Here are the Division I winners:
Frankford Chargers 37, Oak Ridge Colts 6
Richmond Perrine Giants 24, Asbury Park Blue Bishops 0
White Oak Warriors 26, Southfield Lathrup Falcons 0
Wednesday was jam-packed in Florida, with 16 Pop Warner football games and the Jr. Midget Cheer Championships taking place in Lake Buena Vista. With ESPN360 cameras capturing four of the football games, it truly was a hectic day.
-- Six cheerleading champions were crowned: the St. Cecelias Golden Knights (Advanced Small), the Jackson Jaguars (Advanced Large), the Billerica Braves (Novice Small), the Iselin Giants (Novice Large), the Everett Huskies (Intermediate Small) and the Fairfield Giants (Intermediate Large).
-- The White Oak Warriors football club continues to roll, winning the Jr. Peewee Semifinals, 32-0, and the Peewee semifinals, also 32-0. Both teams are going for a national title this weekend.
-- The Midget consolation bracket probably had the game of the day. The SE Dallas Wolverines beat the Murrieta Valley Thunderhawks, 25-24. The Wolverines were down 16-0 at halftime and 24-6 after three quarters, but scored 19 points in the decisive fourth quarter to stun the Thunderhawks.
Thursday is an off day for football, but the dance competition will keep the Disney Wide World of Sports Complex buzzing all day long. Football and cheerleading resumes Friday.
Just a quick reminder: Tuesday and Wednesday's games will be shown on ESPN360.com, the broadband channel of cable sports giant ESPN. Games will be shown all day both days. Go to www.beta.espn360.com to check out the action.
Google News is a great tool to comb media sites nationwide for a particular subject. For example...Pop Warner.
This is great news out of upstate New York, and indicative of the support Pop Warner football and cheer and dance teams are getting nationwide. The Junior Bills out of the Buffalo area are heading down to Florida after securing enough funds to pay for the travel.
This is always a hectic issue in the week leading up to the Super Bowl--teams are responsible for getting down to Florida by themselves, leading to last-second pleas for donations through media outlets.
The Junior Bills got help in the form of $5,000 from a local wholesale business and $15,000 from First Niagara Bank.
In this tough time for the U.S. Economy, it's great to see people willing to give to see young athletes have memories that will last a lifetime.
There is only one football team at this year's Pop Warner Super Bowl looking to repeat as champions. And to be honest, I'm not sure which one it is.
You see, the White Oak Youth and Sports Association in Silver Spring, Md., has a slew of excellent athletes in football in a number of different age groups. It paid off last year when the White Oak Warriors won the Junior PeeWee national championship under the direction of coach Mike Wills.
Well, the Warriors' Junior PeeWee team is back in the Pop Warner Super Bowl, rolling through the Eastern Region last week. But it's not the same team.
"We moved up to the PeeWee division," Willis said of last year's champions.
Yes, the same team, a bit older and a bit bigger, now plays up one division. And they, too, are going to the Pop Warner Super Bowl.
To recap: The Jr. PeeWee Warriors won the Super Bowl in 2007. That group of players is now the PeeWee Warriors, and are going to the Super Bowl again. Meanwhile, the up-and-coming (new) Junior PeeWee Warriors are going to the Super Bowl themselves.
Needless to say, Silver Spring, Md., will have a big cheering section in Florida.
It's interesting how dynasties take up similar attitudes, whether they're 10-year olds like the Warriors or 30-somethings like the NFL's New England Patriots. I asked Willis how the attitude changed for his group of players going to Florida for the second straight season.
"Last year they were a little more excited," Willis admitted. "This year, the goal is to repeat. Last year the goal was to get to Florida.
"This year there were only a few kids that celebrated when we won regionals."
Just like the pros. You've been there before, you begin to act like it.
The PeeWee Warriors are 12-0, rolling through the schedule behind an amazing defense. They play the Southeast Dallas (Texas) Wolverines on Sunday to begin their title defense. The younger guys are trying to maintain the Jr. PeeWee dominance, starting Sunday against the Palmetto Raiders out of Florida.
Don't count either of them out. After all, this isn't the first dance for the White Oak Warriors. Far from it.
Sports media giant ESPN is broadcasting several Pop Warner football games through its broadband television network ESPN360.com .
ESPN360 will have coverage of ALL the games played on Dec. 9 and Dec. 10 (Tuesday and Wednesday) from the Disney Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. In addition, those games will be available on demand for several weeks after theyre shown live.
Click here to access ESPN360 and find the broadcast schedule.
It's that time of year. Thousands of young athletes have punched their tickets to Lake Buena Vista, Fla., for the Pop Warner Super Bowl and National Cheer and Dance Championship at the Disney Wide World of Sports.
It's a long road to get to this point. To get an idea of just how long, let's break down what the extravaganza at Orlando is comprised of:
--In football, Pop Warner teams eligible for the Super Bowl are divided into four different age/weight ranges: Junior Pee Wee, Pee Wee, Junior Midget and Midget. For example, Junior Pee Wee is typically 8-11 year olds who weight between 60 and 105 pounds. Midget is typically 11-15 year olds who weigh between 105-160 pounds.
--A Pop Warner team must win its respective league to advance to the Regional Championships.
--There are eight regionsEastern, Mid-America, Pacific Northwest, New England, Mid-South, Southeast, Wescon and Southwest.
--Eight teams emerge from each region teams from each of the four age/weight ranges in Division I and Division IIto advance to the Super Bowl.
That means that 64 teams are heading to the Orlando area for the Super Bowl. Each team is guaranteed at least two games over the seven-day event, which means the fields are going to be pretty worn down once its all said and done.
For the cheer and dance squads, the road is similar:
--Teams are divided by squad size (small and large) and further into novice, intermediate and advanced.
--A squad must place in the top two of its league competition to qualify for regionals.
--Once at regionals, each squad performs a 2:30 routine. The top two squads in each size and division advance to the championships in Orlando.
Pop Warner expects more than 500 cheer and dance squads in Florida for the five-day event.