The Columbia County Recreation Department held their end-of-the-year Youth Football Tournament Championship Games Nov. 12 at Greenbrier High for three separate age groups to wrap up another season of football.
The talent in the county seems to be getting better and better. There is certainly more depth today than there ever has been.
Back when I was coming through the recreation department you would have one or two players pretty much carry a team to the championship, and those players would win most every game they played in every age group.
The recent games provided plenty of evidence that the depth in the county is better.
In the two oldest age groups, the top-seeded teams based on the regular season did not win the titles. As a matter of fact, in the Midget Boys (11- and 12-year-olds), the No. 3 seeded-Eagles knocked off the No. 2 seeded-49ers in the semifinals, then beat the top-seeded Redskins to claim the championship.
In the Bantam Division (10-year-olds), the top two seeds met for the championship, with the No. 2-seeded Ravens knocking off the top-seeded Raiders.
Also, none of the three champions went through the regular season undefeated. Hopefully, this improved and deeper talent pool bodes well for the high school programs in Columbia County in the coming years.
Here is a breakdown of the championship games:
Junior Bantam (9-year-olds)
Broncos 14, Steelers 12
The Broncos came into the postseason 5-2, but beat the Colts and Panthers to earn their spot in the championship game. Their opponent, the Steelers, were regular-season champs and had gotten past the Texans and the Jaguars to claim their spot in the big game. Running Back Jalen White was the star of the game. He ran for a pair of touchdowns to lead the Broncos to the title.
The difference in the game, which came down to the wire, was an extra-point kick by Joe Wren for the Broncos and a terrific goal-line stand. With a two-point lead late in the game, the Steelers drove it down to the Broncos’ 3-yard line with 30 seconds left. But the Broncos Defense rose to the occasion, stopping the Steelers on three consecutive plays to hold on to win the championship.
One of the key defensive players was cornerback Brent Swaylik who, despite an injury, came in and made a key tackle on defense. Also, the stellar play of defensive tackles Sal Disapio and Raylen Reese was huge for the Broncos. On offense, fullback Miles Parks and wingback/quarterback Justin Mebbings, along with Jalen White, helped move the ball all season. The Steelers were led by the outstanding play of running back Ridge Johnson and quarterback Ryan Markwalter this season.
Junior Bantam Regular Season Champions: Steelers
Tournament Champions: Broncos (8-2)
Head Caoch: Anthony Parks
Assistants: Mark Hullum, Michael Gonsalves
Bantam Division (10-year-olds)
Ravens 14, Raiders 6
Like the Broncos in the 9-year-old division, the Ravens came into the post-season with a pair of losses and a 6-2 mark, but they won a pair of games to set up a matchup with the Raiders in a meeting of the league’s top two teams. Like the younger division title game, this won was a barnburner, too, as the Ravens beat the regular-season champion.
Quarterback Kyle Stone scored first for the Ravens on a touchdown run. The two teams were tied at 6-6 entering the fourth quarter. However, on a fourth and five, the Ravens ran a halfback pass and Jason Belley found wide receiver Joel Rippy on a 35-yard touchdown for the game-winner. Sam Wren booted the extra point to make the final score 14-6.
The Wrens are a family of good kickers. Max was the placekicker for Evans High School this season, while Sam and Joe kicked successful extra points in two of the championship games.
While Stone, Rippy, Belley, and fullback Logan Phillips keyed the offense, defensively Phillips also was outstanding at linebacker. Fellow linebackers Will Morris and Davis Watson were the other defensive leaders.
In the title game, nose guard Corey Yaden came up with a key tackle on a fourth and 1 play. Yaden brought down running back Chris Torrez to halt the Raiders’ drive.
Torrez scored 26 touchdowns this season, while running back Clydell White scored 15. Other key players for the Raiders included nose guard Gage Omar, defensive end Mike Jeschke and linebacker Will Rawlins.
Bantam Division Regular Season Champions: Raiders (10-1)
Tournament Champions: Ravens (9-2)
Head Coach: Jacob Yaden
Assistant Coaches: Larry Carter, Bruce Reese, Darrell Delley
Midget Division (11- and 12-year-olds)
Eagles 14, Redskins 12
In the Midget Division, the regular season was hotly contested with the Eagles, Ravens and 49ers each finishing the season 7-1. By virtue of a coin toss, the Redskins earned the top seed. They advanced to the championship game thanks to the stellar play of quarterback Chris Brown and bruising running back P.J. Moginesi.
In the championship game, the Eagles got touchdowns from running back Brandon Marshall, who scored on a reverse, and quarterback Houston Barbee, who scored on a bootleg. Marshall and Barbee, along with running back Chase Russaw, carried the Eagles offense all season. That trio was also outstanding on defense, with Marshall and Russaw playing linebacker and Barbee playing defensive end.
On defense they got plenty of help from defensive end Garrett Devore and cornerback Ben Sandbach. The Eagles can definitely lay claim to the title, because they beat both of the other 7-1 teams in the 49ers and Redskins en route to the championship and a 10-1 finish.
This title was especially sweet for head coach Charlie Blackwell.
A few months ago, his good friend Jim Siple lost a long battle with cancer. Siple and Blackwell had coached together for 20 years. Everyone who knew “Big Jim” loved him and because of his contributions to youth sports in Columbia County. The CCRD named the championship trophy in each Division “The Jim Siple Trophy.” For Coach Blackwell to win the Trophy bearing Big Jim’s name this year is a moment I am sure he will never forget.
Midget Division Regular Season Champions:
(3-Way Tie) Eagles (10-1), Redskins (9-2), and 49ers (8-2)
Tournament Champions: Eagles (10-1)
Head Coach: Charlie Blackwell
Assistants Coaches: Danny Brown, Charles Lindemuth
Three Greenbrier students also helped the team as part of their senior project:
Scott Reeder (2011 Graduate), Joe Lazzarra (2012) and Austin Bieda (2012)
Jim Mock of the recreation department wanted to send out a special thanks to Greenbrier High School and coach Brian Smith, as well as Grovetown High School and head coach Rodney Holder.
Greenbrier played host to the championship games and played host a youth football night at one of the Wolfpack’s home games. Grovetown also played host to a Youth Football Night and they allowed some of the teams to use their facilities for practices.