Junior Midgets’ season ends in Best of the West championship
The Truckee Junior Midgets enjoyed an impressive run — 10 straight wins, a Snow Bowl title and the Pacific Northwest Regional championship.
The run came to an end this past Sunday, however.
The team of mostly eighth-graders came up a game short of a perfect 11-0 season, as the Wolverines fell 16-0 to a talented Phoenix Toros squad in the Best of the West Division III Pop Warner championship in San Jose.
“It was a tough loss for these boys,” said Truckee coach Paul Dalbol. “But after our amazing 10-1 season, it’s so exciting for Truckee that this is really just the beginning. The majority of them will be at the high school next year.”
Penalties hurt the Wolverines’ cause, as well as the loss of a couple key players. Truckee ended the game with 280 yards in penalties, four times more than they had in any single game this season.
“We knew we matched up very well against this Arizona team, and we were moving the ball very well against them in the first quarter,” said Truckee coach Steve Santens. “Unfortunately, we had 120 yards of penalties in that quarter, which negated most all of our gains, and eventually pinned us on our own goal line.”
Kevin Malo once again lived up to his nickname, “The Beast,” running the ball hard for Truckee, but with little to show for it on the stats page.
Although the Toros had superior field position, the Wolverines’ top-ranked defense led by nose tackle Marcus Trotter and middle linebacker Drew Wingard had multiple stands that kept the Toros out of the end zone in the first quarter, leaving the score tied at 0-0.
The Truckee penalties continued to mount in the second quarter. It was then that a Toro delivered an unsportsmanlike hit in the back on Wingard, who retaliated and was ejected along with the Phoenix player. A few plays later, the Toros scrambled into the end zone and take an 8-0 lead.
“It was a little bit of a blow to lose our middle linebacker in the second quarter,” Santens said. “And our boys were not used to that style of play and became frustrated with penalties and the tempo of the game.”
Truckee continued to fight and move the ball. Quarterback Braedy Santens opened the air attack to Sean “Fast Cat” Kelly on a pass that was completed at the Toro 20-yard line — but that completion, along with two more consecutive 15-plus-yard completions, were all called back for various penalties.
The Wolverines were striking. With 20 seconds left in the half, Santens spiked the ball to stop the clock and Truckee had one more chance to punch it in. Santens was sacked on the play and Truckee went into halftime trailing 8-0.
Despite the off-tempo first half, the Wolverines came out of the break with more fire than ever.
“These boys are so resilient and loose. The 8-0 deficit meant nothing to them,” said Truckee coach Terry Cordell. “They were more pumped and ready to play than I’d seen all season.”
Much of the same continued through the third quarter, with back-and-forth, hard-nosed possessions and no scoring.
The Truckee defense continued its dominant way with the Toros, who had previously put up 34 points on the Southern California champions two weeks prior. The score remained 8-0 end of the third quarter.
The Wolverines were dealt another personnel blow in the third when Kelly left the game with a broken collarbone.
The Toros tacked on another touchdown in the fourth quarter on a pass over the middle.
Truckee earned a berth in the Best of the West championship by defeating Bay Area powerhouse Andrew Hill, 19-0, on Nov. 22.