Pop Warner | Truckee Junior Midgets blank Bay Area powerhouse
The Truckee Junior Midgets are getting used to the term “champions.”
After claiming the Sagebrush Empire League championship and shutting out Douglas for the Snow Bowl title, the juggernaut group of mostly eighth-grade Pop Warner players dominated their toughest opponent to date to earn the distinction as the Pacific Northwest Regional champions.
The Wolverines defeated the powerhouse Andrew Hill Raiders of San Jose, 19-0, at Bishop Manogue High School last Saturday.
Entering the game, the Raiders had allowed only 18 points while averaging 34.
“This was a great victory for our team,” said Truckee head coach Steve Santens, whose Wolverines improved to 10-0 and advanced to face the undefeated Phoenix Toros in the Best of the West national title game.
On Saturday, the Truckee Junior Midgets let the Raiders know from the start that they came ready to play.
On the third play of the game the Raiders mishandled the ball and Truckee defensive end Sean “Fast Cat” Kelly recovered in the midfield.
Three plays later, Kelly used a pair of smashing blocks by Marcus Bellon and Marcus “Truckum Down” Trotter to scamper 32 yards to the Raiders 13-yard line.
After a run by Kevin “The Beast” Malo, the Wolverines moved the ball to the 3-yard line before moving backward on multiple holding penalties. It didn’t matter, however, as Carter “Hit Man” Corso moved the ball back to the 5-yard line and Bellon ran in for the first score of the game.
Truckee’s offensive line of Jake Bullion, Sebastian “Seb” Hall, Mark Daniel Cadena, Trotter and Nate Dalbol paved the way for “The Beast” to rush for 246 yards on 28 attempts, with two touchdowns.
“This was outstanding offensive line play and effort from ‘The Beast,’” Santens said.
The next possession for the Raiders seemed promising after they moved the ball into Wolverine territory on a controversial personal foul call. Two plays later, the stout Truckee defense, which has given up only 15 points in three postseason games, recovered the second fumble of the day. The defense is led by middle linebacker Drew Wingard, who had several key stops during the game.
The next possession for the Wolverines stalled and the Raiders took over again. Truckee’s defense again stopped the Raiders, forcing them to punt. The Raiders kicked an unbelievable 50-yard punt to back up the Wolverines up to their own goal line.
After three attempts to get the ball out of the end zone, Truckee was forced to punt.
“Punting out of the end zone was not a fun thing,” Santens said. “I felt it was necessary because we did not want to take a safety and kick off to Andrew Hill again. That could have made the score 10-6 with the type of athletes that the Raiders have.”
It proved to be the right call and Truckee went into half leading 6-0.
The second half is when Truckee began to dominate the action.
On their first possession, the Wolverines marched down the field before Malo extended the lead with a rushing TD.
The Raiders tried to answer but were stopped again by the great defensive line play of Adian Kane, Jack “Waterboy” Schaffner, Randy Butler, Kelly, Malo and Trotter.
The Wolverines regained possession and Malo scored the third touchdown of the day with 3:59 left in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Truckee quarterback Braedy Santens commanded an audible on a critical fourth down. He then handed off to Malo for a first down that essentially ended the game, as “The Beast” ran out the clock with 15 consecutive runs.
“Kevin ‘The Beast’ Malo is one of the best players I have ever coached,” Santens said. “He has heart, determination and is damn fast.”
Malo was carried off the field after the game by his teammates.
“I am honored to coach this team,” Santens said. “We are a family and will remain a family forever. This group has bonded and played as a team.”
The next challenge is even bigger as the Wolverines contend for the Best of the West title against a talented Phoenix Toros team at Andrew Hill High School in San Jose on Dec. 7.
“This is a great honor to be able to compete in this game,” Santens said. “This will be the toughest matchup of the year. They are us. They run power football, wing-T and a passing game. The farther a team goes into the playoffs, the stronger the competition. I know we can beat the Toros if we play physical.”