Sandhills Patriots Claim NAYF Titles
On the heels of two PYFL Super Bowl victories, the Sandhills Patriots sent four teams to the North American Youth Football Championships in Charlotte last weekend.
Both the 14- and 11-year-old squads captured the championship, while the 13-year-old team tied for first place but was awarded runner-up based upon a tie breaker. The 9-year-old squad came up short in its three games but thoroughly enjoyed their experience, especially having the opportunity to play on field turf, according to a spokesperson.
The 14-year-old team, made up of local eighth- and ninth-graders, defeated the St. Charles Bears from Maryland 50-0 in its first game. The Patriots were led by quarterback Bradley Black, who connected with wide receiver Crash Burns in the back of the end zone for the Patriots’ first score. After the Bears ensuing drive was halted, Detavia Baker returned a Bears’ punt for the Patriots second score.
Chance Castillo, Jaylen Taylor and Donnie Bowden led the Patriots running attack, while the defense was anchored by middle linebacker Ryan Lipomi and strong defensive line play by Caleb Hendricks, Eric McCaskill, Thomas Lehto, Sean Pollard and Ashton Keith. Landon Winningham also returned an interception for a touchdown.
In their second game, the Patriots played the Cumberland Ravens. The Raven defense kept the Patriot running game in check so the team relied on Black’s arm to guide the offense. Black threw three touchdown passes, one each to Baker, Castillo and tight end Jordan Denny. Strong safety Winningham and linebackers Lipomi and Timothy Morphin led the Patriot defense to its second shut out.
In the championship game, the Patriots played the Essex Ravens from Canada, who were also 2-0. The Patriots stout defense was keyed by a 90-yard interception return by Baker. Castillo, Taylor, Thomas Dean and Malik Justice led the Patriot running attack, with Castillo scoring two touchdowns as the Patriots came away with a 20-0 victory.
The Patriot offensive line including Noah DeLisle, A.J. Holmes, Sean Pollard, Will Milliken and Joe Lewis dominated the line of scrimmage and opened running lanes for Patriot runners.
The 13-year-old team fell to the undefeated East Mecklenburg Tarheels in its first game 20-12, but were victorious in their next two games, defeating Mint Hill Steelers 24-7 and the Troy Cowboys 35-14.
Castillo, Taylor, and Carson Maples led the Patriot running game. Bailey Benton, Tyquan Smith, Layton Barber and Ayinde McKnight kept the Cowboy offense in check.
The Patriot 11-year-old team won three games to capture the championship. Quarterback Nick Pry and running backs Langdon McFay and Jaron Lubrano led the Patriot offensive attack. The Patriots defeated the Providence Volunteers in the first game 27-0. In their second game, the squad beat the St. Charles Bears 20-0 and on the final day of the tournament secured the championship with a 22-14 victory over the Ballyntine Gators.
The Patriot defense was led by Marquez Baxter, Kyle Ehlers, Garrett Clark and Charles Justice.
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