The mistake was actually Luke Despot’s fault. The quarterback for the East Manatee Bulldogs’ mighty mites team missed the audible call from his father and head coach, Greg Despot, so when he was supposed to bootleg left, he tried to pitch right instead.
His error, though, led to what will probably be the most memorable moment of his season.
The Bulldogs got a chance to play at Raymond James Stadium against the Lakewood Ranch Colts at halftime of Sunday’s Buccaneers game, so the fumble, ensuing pick-up and following 40-yard touchdown run through a chaotic mess of children was into one end zone at Raymond James. Waiting to greet him was John Phillips, a tight end for the visiting Broncos.
Phillips high-fived Luke Despot and his running back, Trey Schwartz, as he marveled at the unlikely play.
“That was awesome,” Greg Despot said. “To have a pro player come over and say, ‘Hey, that was pretty awesome,’ to a couple of 10-year-olds — for them I’m sure it was like a dream come true.”
East Manatee and the Colts shared half of the field in Tampa, and the Bulldogs were doing it for the first time. Lakewood Ranch played at halftime of a game last season, and when the parent who served as the liaison with the organization moved her son over from the Colts’ YMCA league to Pop Warner Little Scholars, he was able to set up an arrangement to please all parties.
“We both kind of got wrangled into playing because they wanted to give the Colts a chance to go back because they played last year, but then once they found out we were literally right down the street and we had a team,” Despot said. “Completely different leagues, let’s have some fun.”
The game capped an already successful weekend for East Manatee’s mighty mites team. The Bulldogs topped the Hardee Wildcats a day earlier at Lakewood Ranch Park in a league game, although the rest of the club didn’t fare as well. The junior pee wee team fell to the Wildcats, the junior varsity team lost to the Fishhawk Wolfpack and the pee wee team stumbled against the Wesley Chapel Cowboys at Wesley Chapel District Park.
The North Manatee Storm was the only Manatee County club to finish the weekend above .500. The Storm’s mighty mites and junior varsity teams beat the South Tampa Titans at Robinson High School while the junior pee wee team fell in Tampa.
The Manatee Wildcats split four games with the Palm Harbor Panthers at Palm Harbor University High School. The Wildcats won in mighty mites and pee wee, and lost junior pee wee and junior varsity games in Palm Harbor.
The Manatee Mustangs scored a junior varsity win against Land O’ Lakes’ South Pasco Predators at Mustang Field, tied in mighty mites, and lost both junior pee wee and pee wee games. The Palmetto Trojans stumbled through a winless Saturday at Palmetto Youth Center with mighty mites, junior pee wee and pee wee losses to the Wolfpack.
Scrappers win SWFL Champions Cup
A handful of Manatee County teams made the trip down to Port Charlotte for the SWFL Champions Cup, a Suncoast Travel Ball (STB) baseball tournament, and Scrappers Baseball is even returning with a championship. The Parrish club split a pair of games during pool play in the 13 open division before winning with a pair of blowouts in the single-elimination tournament. The Scrappers finished the weekend with a 9-3 win against Fort Myers’ Gulf Coast Fury at the Harold Avenue Recreation Center.
Team Manatee and Mustangs Elite both reached the championship game of the 12 open and 11 open divisions, respectively, before falling short. Fort Myers’ Florida Bats Scout Team took the 12 open division and the Gulf Coast Monarch’s of Estero won 11 open at North Charlotte Regional Park Recreation Center.
STB will come to the area this weekend with the third annual Fall Classic played across Bradenton and Sarasota from Friday-Sunday. Braden River Park will serve as the primary host. The STB Central Florida Showdown Super NIT will also take place in Auburndale on Saturday and Sunday.