Patriots Win Dual Youth Super Bowls
For the third time in as many years the Sandhills Patriots varsity team has gone undefeated and won the Piedmont Youth Football League Super Bowl.
And for the first time, the Patriot junior varsity team joined the party, claiming the Super Bowl title in its division.
Both teams defeated teams from Fayetteville in claiming the championship of the PYFL. The varsity Patriots defeated the Fayetteville Buccaneers 17-6, while the jayvee squad defeated the Bucs 14-7. Both games were played at Vance High School in Charlotte last Saturday.
The next stop for both squads is the North American Youth Football Championships in Charlotte starting Nov. 25.
The Patriot varsity team has a record of 33-0 over the last three seasons and has led the PYFL in offensive production and defense in each of those years.
Head coach Craig Baggett was extremely pleased with his team’s effort on both sides of the ball. In particular, the Patriot defense was outstanding for four quarters.
“It is quite an accomplishment to hold that offense (Buccaneers) to six points,” Baggett said.
Those six points came in the first half, giving the Bucs a 6-0 lead as game went into halftime.
The Patriots came out in the second half and took the lead on their first possession. Sparked by a 60-yard bomb from quarterback Jaylin Dickerson to wide receiver Kross Ratliff, the Patriots put six on the board one play later. From the one-yard line, Carson Maples went off the left side for the score. Zach Martinez made good on the extra point, giving the Patriots a 7-6 lead midway through the third period.
After stopping the Bucs, the Patriots turned to the ground game for their next score, pounding the ball between the tackles to reach the Bucs’ 35. From there, Maples took a handoff from Dickerson off the left side and rumbled 35 yards to paydirt. Martinez once again added the extra point, pushing the Patriots’ lead to 14-6 entering the fourth quarter.
In the fourth quarter, the stout Patriot defense again stopped the Buccaneers on repeated possessions, including a key fourth-and-six play. After holding the Buccaneers to a five-yard gain, the Patriot offense took over on downs.
Once again the Patriot running attack ran the ball down the field with key carries by Maples, Sam Williams and Thomas Dean. The Patriots’ drive stalled on the Buccaneers 17-yard line and the team sent the field goal unit on to attempt a 35-yard field goal. Martinez came through, drilling the ball between the uprights to give the Patriots a 17-6 lead.
Following the ensuing kickoff, the Patriot defense again stopped the explosive Buccaneer offense and took over on downs. The Patriot offense proceeded to drive the ball to the Buccaneer 20 before Dickerson took a knee to end the game and complete squad’s third undefeated season.
Linebackers Maples, David Bortins, Malik Justice and Ayinde McKnight keyed the Patriot defense.
On offense, Dickerson connected with Ratliff and Crash Burns for critical completions, while Maples, Williams and Dean combined to rush for over 160 yards.
Jayvees Get First Title
In the junior varsity championship clash, the Patriots scored from both sides of the ball, with Nic Pry providing an interception return and Jaron Lubrano a rushing score, in claiming the 14-7 win.
On the Buccaneers’ first drive, linebacker Langdon McFay caused a fumble, giving the Patriots the ball on their own 35. In a drive that almost consumed the entire first quarter, the Patriot offense drove the ball down to the Buccaneer 3 after converting several fourth-down opportunities.
Tailback Lubrano, running behind backs Greg Lyne and Kyle Ehlers, rushed for 65 yards on the first drive, including the three-yard touchdown to give the Patriots a 6-0 lead. McFay was good on the extra-point conversion, giving the Patriots an 8-0 lead. Just before half time, the Buccaneers closed the gap on a long pass down the left, closing the gap to 8-6. The Buccaneers elected to run for the extra point, ending the half with the Patriots up 8-7.
Shortly before halftime, the Patriots lost their star running back Lubrano to a leg injury, forcing them to make adjustments at halftime. Q. Kelly took over for Lubrano and made several key runs to keep Patriot drives alive.
Meanwhile, the Patriot defense dominated the line of scrimmage and kept the Buccaneers on their side of the field for most of the second half. Facing third down from their own 22, the Buccaneer quarterback attempted to complete an out route but was intercepted by cornerback Pry, who returned the ball for a touchdown to give the Patriots a 14-7 lead.
The Patriots stopped the Buccaneer offense on each possession in the fourth quarter and late in the fourth quarter drove the ball down to the Buccaneer 30. The Patriot offense made several first downs and was ultimately able to run out the clock, sealing the 14-7 victory.
Pry, Lubrano and Kelly were key offensive contributors for the Patriots while McFay, Marquez Baxter, Garrett Clark, Charles Justice and Mason Wagner led the defense.
However, according to coach Billy Gray, “the key to this victory and the success of the Patriots throughout the season has been the offensive line. Most of these kids have played together on the prep squad and jayvee squad for the last three years and their experience, coupled with their size and ability, makes it very difficult to stop our running game.”
The offensive line includes Captain K.K. Blue, Baxter, McFay, Matt Coe, Tanner Benton and Austin Metzger.
“The players have worked very hard since March to achieve this goal and I couldn’t be more proud of their accomplishments,” said defensive coordinator Scott Baggett.
Although the season was filled with successes it was not without hardship. Just before the season, one of the Patriots, Cooper Ellington, was diagnosed with a tumor in his brain that forced him to miss the entire season.
The Patriot jayvee team dedicated the entire season to Ellington, who underwent surgery at Duke and is currently in rehab in Greenville. The game ball will be presented to Cooper when he returns home in December.
The Patriot organization has also announced the creation of the Cooper Ellington Award to be given to the player that exhibits courage and perseverance during the season.
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