A trek across the state to the East Coast couldn't derail the North Manatee Storm's undefeated season.
The Storm's Pee Wee club improved to 12-0 on the year with a 32-24 victory over the Merritt Island Mustangs in Saturday's Division II Pop Warner Southeast Region second round.
North Manatee, the FYD Conference champions, received a 3-yard game-winning touchdown run from Jared Richardson behind Joshua Rupert, Donovan Ausborn, Jackson Sauerbeck and Jacob Graham's blocking late in the fourth quarter.
The Storm received additional scores from Dajor Murrell (60-yard run), Rory Houston (65-yard interception return) and Dominec McNeil (50-yard reception from Richardson). Vaughn Hayes was 4-for-4 in extra point kicks in the back-and-forth contest that saw the Mustangs tie the game three times prior to North Manatee's late heroics.
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Mateus Urbanski, Ryan Ehrhart, Jackson Dietz, Karsen Heidenreich and Jose Zuniga supplied stellar blocking on Murrell's touchdown run that provided the opening points for the Storm.
Meanwhile, North Manatee's defense received
standout performances from Jett Gillum, Gage Clarke, Jakir Fordham, John Jones, Harrison Fuller, Richardson, Urbanski and Murrell.
The victory pushes the Storm into the Southeast Regional semifinals against the Palmetto Bay Broncos this Saturday.
In the Division-I playoffs, the Manatee Mustangs -- a powerhouse locally -- fell in three age divisions to Miami-area clubs.
The Richmond Giants blanked the Mustangs 25-0 in the Junior Pee Wee division. The Liberty City Warriors routed Manatee 34-8 in the Pee Wee division. And the Palmetto Raiders shut out the Mustangs 16-0 in the Midget division.
Sam Washington scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak in the Pee Wee game to arm the Mustangs with an 8-6 lead, but Manatee turnovers led to Liberty City reeling off 28 unanswered points.
The losses to Miami-based programs is a familiar feeling at this stage of the playoffs for the Mustangs, who dominate area Pop Warner football yearly.
Since becoming a D-I program in 2007, the Mustangs have just one victory against Miami champions.
Hooke sets four records
Bradenton's Mickey Hooke shattered four records en route to winning the 10K Run race at the 2012 Beach Running World Championships at the end of October in Cocoa Beach.
Hooke ran the 6.2 mile race in 36 minutes, 36.7 seconds for the second fastest time in course history. It was also a masters and grandmasters event record as well as a course record in the masters and grandmasters divisions.
The 51-year-old Hooke won the overall male division by two minutes over 16-year-old Jai Jackson.
Last year, Hooke placed third overall in the male division and lowered his time by 1:15 in this year's event.
Adult flag football
Two adult recreation leagues are scheduled for G.T. Bray park this winter. Flag Football, featuring 4-on-4 and 5-on-5 leagues, is set to begin Dec. 5.
Games will run Wednesday nights, and teams are required to provide jerseys, flag belts and a football. The team entry fee is $325 for each league, with official team rosters due at registration. G.T. Bray will hold registration from Nov. 13-15. The season consists of eight games and a single-elimination tournament.
Contact Ashley D'Arpino at 742-5923, ext. 6062, for more information.
Jason Dill, sports reporter, can be reached at 745-7052 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Jason__Dill