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Commentary | Manatee County youth football players put on the pads

The Foundation for Youth Development Pop Warner football league began its 2012 season in the Tampa Bay area. The East Manatee Bulldogs hosted the Manatee Wildcats in multiple age divisions.

In the Tiny Might division, the teams played to an 18-18 tie with Taivon Derisma (two touchdowns) and Isaac Ashley (one TD) accounting for the Bulldogs' scores. Kevion Wilson, Jared Hendersen and Lucas Caraher led the defense.

In the Mighty Might division, the Bulldogs beat the Wildcats 33-19 behind Ethan Bement's two touchdowns and more than 130 rushing yards. Josiah Lozada added a score and 75 rushing yards. Kevin Miller also accounted for more than 200 total yards of offense with a touchdown and ran back one of two interceptions for a score. A.J. Russo had a fumble recovery in the victory.

The Bulldogs continued a strong start to the season with a 24-0 shutout in the Pee Wee division. Mason Fischer tossed a TD pass to wide receiver Amari Pitts after quarterback Jacob Hepler completed a fourth down conversion when tight end Peyton Jula snagged an 18-yard reception to keep the opening drive going.

Caleb Whitson added a 6-yard rushing TD after the Bulldogs recovered a fumble to put the Wildcats in an early deficit.

"It felt like we had the ball on offense for at least 17 of the first 20 minutes of the game," said Bulldogs Pee Wee head coach Bill

Jula. "I can't say enough about how our offensive line played. Those guys deserve all the credit for this win."

Fischer capped a multi-scoring day with TDs from 7- and 35-yards, respectively, in the second half.

Linebacker Ty Barker kept the shutout intact with an interception late in the game.

The Bulldogs earned another victory in the Junior Midget division, beating the Wildcats 22-7. Running back Jernard Porter Jr. (65-yard run) and Keyon Fordham (35-yard TD run) led the offense.

Fordham added a 70-yard punt return rumble to pay dirt, while Cody Staton booted a pair of 2-point conversions. Chase Tench (30-yard interception return), Noah Benghuzzi (90-yard INT TD return) joined the multiple tackles for losses from Matthew Strauss, Chase Knopf and Cole Haddad to pace the defense.

However, the Wildcats also recorded victories on Saturday with a 13-7 triumph in the Junior Pee Wee division and a 28-0 rout in the Midget division.

Labor Day soccer

A big youth soccer tournament is heading back to the Lakewood Ranch Premier Sports Campus this Labor Day weekend as more than 300 teams from around the state representing boys and girls squads ranging from U-9s to U-18s are expected to arrive.

The event is free to the public. There is no parking charges, either. Games are scheduled to start at 8 a.m. and run through 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Monday's slate goes from 8 a.m. to noon.

The local Chargers soccer club is the host organization for the Labor Day Showcase.

This year's event has an added wrinkle as eight of the fields now have lights compared to the 2011 tournament that did not have them.

"The campus has just taken off," Premier Sports Campus director Tim Mulqueen said in a news release. "And the lights make us very unique in that we are the only local facility that is privately owned that has playing fields with lights."

Jason Dill, sports reporter, can be reached at 745-7017 or via email at Follow him on Twitter @Jason__Dill