Its playoff time for youth football. Whether it’s Pop Warner, Manatee PAL, the YMCA or Mid-Florida Football and Cheerleading Conference, the postseason is here.
In Pop Warner’s Foundation for Youth Development Conference, local teams are alive and kicking in the playoffs for both Division I and Division II.
The East Manatee Bulldogs’ junior midgets defeated the Palm Harbor Panthers 24-13 on Saturday to book a spot into this weekend’s D-II FYD Conference Championship against the South Pasco Predators.
Quarterback Nate Strawderman tossed two touchdown passes with 194 yards, while Kyle Thoma added a 60-yard TD run as well as a 40-yard TD reception to close out the first half. Dillion Davis, Hunter Jernigan, Ronnie Carabbia and Dillion Townsond led the defense.
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Strawderman’s performance gives him 25 TD passes and more than 2,000 passing yards this season as the Bulldogs are in the conference title game for the first time since the 2005 Super Bowl champion club.
The game is scheduled for 3 p.m. at Tampa Bay Technical High School.
Also joining the Bulldogs is the Manatee Wildcats, who send a team in the midget division.
The Manatee Mustangs have four teams in the D-I conference semifinals. The Mustangs’ face the St. Petersburg Silver Raiders (junior midget), Carrollwood Hurricanes (midget), North East Tampa Pirates (junior pee wee) and South Shore Junior Longhorns (pee wee) at JC Turner Fields in St. Petersburg on Saturday.
At Manatee PAL, the program’s Super Bowl was this past weekend. The Raiders took down titles in the Mighty Mite (8-10 year olds), Junior Varsity (11-12) and Varsity (13-14) divisions.
The Raiders’ mighty mite team downed the Broncos 33-13 behind Robbie Goecker (three touchdowns) and Jordan Edwards (two TDs) on offense. The defense received interceptions from Michael Cucci and Lance Dutch to seal an undefeated 10-0 season. Cucci’s cousins Anthony and Joseph also claimed Super Bowl titles. Anthony Cucci played on the junior varsity Raiders that beat the Buccaneers 30-19, while Joseph Cucci was with the varsity Raiders that won a Super Bowl championship 28-22.
The G.T. Bray YMCA-affiliated league begins its playoffs this Saturday in three divisions: Mighty Mite, Junior Varsity and Varsity.
And the Manatee Bulls, of the Mid-Florida Football and Cheerleading Conference, are also in the playoffs.
The Bulls’ have a junior division team alive after two of its clubs won district titles.
This Sunday’s game is for the Sunbelt Region Championship, slated for Cook Field in Haines City.
The Bulls are ranked No. 2 in the MFFCC Coaches Poll behind the Osceola Panthers in the state’s junior division.
They square off Sunday against the Fair Oaks Rattlers.
Fired up on the ice
Sure there’s plenty of action on the gridiron, but hockey is going on right now for the Manatee County Hockey Club’s Golden Manatees. After outscoring Lightning Conference foes 30-2 in their last two victories, the Golden Manatees suffered their first defeat this campaign. It was a heartbreaking 2-1 defeat on Friday at the Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex against Bloomingdale.
The high-powered offense was without Paul Lochner (conference leading goal scorer with nine through three games) and Luke Bafia (conference leading points scorer with 18 through three games).
Nonetheless, Manatee fought back from a 1-0 deficit to tie things on a Clifton Ramey power play goal late in the third period.
Bloomingdale’s Derrick Costa, though, netted the game-winner with 10 seconds left to hand the Golden Manatees their first defeat in the 2011-12 season. Last year, Manatee claimed its second straight Lightning Cup.
Jason Dill, sports reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7017 or via email at email@example.com