Home teams end football season with high national rankings

Home teams end football season with high national rankings
December 17
00:00 2015



None of the home-grown youth football teams brought a national championship trophy to Winston-Salem this year. But that doesn’t mean that they came back empty-handed.

Four teams – Ravens, Raiders, Packers and Bobcats – fell short in their quest to win it all. Even so, all teams can be satisfied that they finished the season ranked among the top 6 nationally in their respective divisions and age groups.

Here’s the skinny on how each team fared at the American Youth Football National Championships that were played last week in Kissimmee, Florida.

RAVENS: The Division II Cadets Division final featured two teams who were mirror-images of each other. Unfortunately, Ravens fell short in a 12-0 loss to the Dulles Patriots (Va.). As a result, the Ravens finished their season with a No. 2 national ranking.

“They play the game the same way we play,” said coach Eric Brown. “Both defenses tackle well and both offenses have balance with the run and the pass. Our kids played hard, but the Virginia team kicked it in gear from the opening kickoff until the final whistle. Our intensity level at the start of the game wasn’t what it needed to be for us to be at our very best. We just lost to a better team.”

The Ravens had several scoring opportunities during the game, but couldn’t convert. It also didn’t help that starting center Brandon Miller suffered a neck injury in the fourth quarter and had to taken to the hospital for observation. Miller was later released and returned with the team.

In defeat, fullback Mark Tabb III turned in the top performance for the Ravens in the title game.

The Ravens (7-5)  reached the final after taking a 7-6 win over the Southside Ducks (Texas). The Ducks took the lead on a touchdown run in the first quarter. Amoni Anderson blocked Southside’s PAT kick and the Ravens trailed 6-0.

On their next offensive possession, the Ravens answered quickly. Jason Cowan broke free on a 60-yard run and two plays later, Jaylen Carter scored from 29 yards out to the tie game at 6-6. Tabb ran for the PAT that proved to be the game-winner.

The Ravens beat the Toms River Raiders (N.J.) in the first round. Christopher Wilborn threw a 20-yard scoring pass to tight end Gareon Greene and Cowan raced 50 yards for a touchdown in a 12-7 win.

“The Ravens’ coaches are thankful for all the support we’ve gotten this year,” said Brown. “We ended the year as the No. 2 team in the nation. Next year, we’ll move up to Junior Pee Wees and we plan on coming back (to the nationals). We’re looking to be No. 1 next year and we know we have to prove it.”

RAIDERS: Kernersville’s Junior Midgets earned a fourth-place finish at the Division II nationals. The Raiders advanced by beating the Northwest Dolphins of Maryland in the first round (14-12). After that, they suffered shutout losses to Shadow Hills (Calif.) 16-0 and Fauquier (Va.) 20-0.

Against the Dolphins, Darius Williams opened the scoring for the Raiders with a 35-yard touchdown run. Northwest took the lead 12-7 in the second half, but Kernersville came back to take control. Mekai Fenner scored on a 10-yard run to give the Raiders a lead it would never relinquish.

The Dolphins threatened to score in the final minutes, but Zach Monnette made a touchdown-saving tackle to keep Northwest out of the end zone. The Dolphins attempted a potential game-winning field goal, but the kick was wide left. The Raiders took over on downs and took a knee to run out the clock.

PACKERS:  All hopes for a national title for the Packers vanished in a 20-14 first-round loss to the North Philly Blackhawks (Pa.) in the Division I Junior Midgets Division. The Blackhawks finished as this year’s national runner-up.

The Packers (12-1) encountered little resistance in posting a 35-0 win over the West Valley Demons (Ariz.) in the consolation bracket. In the next round, the Packers topped Palo Alto (Calif.) 28-22 to secure a third-place finish.

BOBCATS: Union Cross, which finished the season at 10-4, never got in sync at the Division II nationals (Pee Wees Division). In the opening round, the Bobcats lost 27-13 to Woodbridge of Washington, D.C. Two days later, they suffered a 32-7 loss to the San Francisco 49ers (Calif.) in the consolation round.

In spite of ending their season with back-to-back losses, the Bobcats achieved more than expected. A year ago, this team finished up with a 1-8 record.

“This season was nothing short of great,” said coach Ralph Turner. “At the nationals, our players learned that if you can’t fight through adversity, you’ll have a long day. But on the other hand, nobody can take away the fact that we are state and regional champions. We came to Florida to try and add to that, but just couldn’t pull it off.”

Jaron Sellers scored the Bobcats only touchdown of the consolation game on a 5-yard run. Ty Lyles threw a pass to Javon Meyers for the PAT.

In the first round, Union Cross couldn’t overcome player ejections, injuries and untimely mistakes that wiped out scoring opportunities in the red zone. By the fourth quarter of that game, the Bobcats roster was down to 12 players.

Lyles ran 45 yards for a touchdown and Meyers scored on a 5-yard run to account for the Bobcats’ scoring.

“For us, it was a mistake-filled game,” said Turner. “Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. We had some critical turnovers and just couldn’t get the job done in the red zone.”

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Craig Greenlee

Craig Greenlee

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