Youth football in the Triad ranks among the best in the country, as evidenced by American Youth Football national titles won last week in Orlando, Fla. by the Winston-Salem Tiny Rams in DI and the Winston-Salem Tiny Indians in DII.
The Rams took the 8th Grade All-American Division title. A suffocating defense, spearheaded by Mekhi Dunlap, Adonis Jones and Hykeem Crockett, set the tone in the Tiny Rams 21-8 championship game victory over the Ocoee-Wekiza Redskins (Fla.). Dunlap had two interceptions which led to scores and the Rams forced four turnovers.
Anthony Hicks connected with Braxton Rorie on a 32-yard touchdown pass to put the Rams up in the first quarter, then Adonis Jones broke three tackles on a 10-yard run to give the Rams a 14-0 lead. The Redskins scored to close the gap to 14-8 at intermission. Hicks threw a 42-yard touchdown pass to Tahliek Garnes to close out the scoring for the Rams, who beat the Los Toros Bulls (Calif.) 39-30 in the opening round.
The Bulls, who were ranked No. 1 on the AYF preseason national poll, scored in the fourth quarter to pull within nine points of the lead, but Marcus Caldwell blocked the conversion kick to end any threats of a late-game comeback.
The Rams beat the Michigan Wolverines 39-8 in the second round game, in which Mashion Powell, Rorie and Garnes each scored two touchdowns.
“Winning the championship is a great feeling but it’s hard to describe,” said assistant coach Rod Dunlap. “Our kids never took their foot off the gas pedal. They had fun and they got the job done.”
Head Coach Angela Lambson put together a seasoned staff of assistants who joined the Rams after the Winston-Salem Steelers ceased operations after the end of the 2012 season. The coaching staff also includes Charles Norris, Taryton Thacker, Kori Price, Matthew Gattison, Kelvin Gwyn Sr. and trainer Bri Watson.
The Tiny Indians had no problems living up to their billing as the No. 1 seed in AYF’s Division II National Tournament. In the championship game of the Cadets Division, the Indians maintained control from start to finish in their 18-2 win over the Manalapan Braves (N.J.) last Friday.
Amar Aikens scored two touchdowns and rushed for more than 200 yards to lead the way. Fred Brown Jr., Jaquan Kelly, Malik Aikens and Tresean Stewart were the ringleaders for an Indians defense that put together four goal-line stands.
Oddly, it was one of those defensive stands that led to the Braves’ only score of the game. The Indians took over on downs at their own three-yard line, but a fumbled snap ended up in the end zone and the Indians fell on the ball, which resulted in a safety for the Braves.
The Indians, who led 6-2 at the half, pounded the Braves with their ground attack led by Aikens, who scored on runs of 80 and 67 yards. Tyrese McIntyre scored the Indians final touchdown when he raced 65 yards on a quarterback draw play. The win gave the team its first national championship in its 30-year history.
“This was all a matter of hard work and determination,” said Coach Fred Brown. “The coaches and the players really came together after we had those three losses early in the season. We never had any issues with egos and that made a huge difference.”
In the semifinal game on Dec. 11, the Indians posted a 32-0 shut-out of the New Star Kings (Tex.). Aikens had a couple of touchdown runs and McIntyre threw a 35-yard scoring pass to Devon Plater. Kelly and Shamar Revel also had scoring runs.
Also in DII play, the Forsyth County Broncos Junior Midgets finished in fourth place after losing in the consolation final to the Howell Rebels (N.J.) 20-16.
The team had nursed a 16-14 lead late in the game, but the Rebels scored on a touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal from the Broncos 25-yard line with 58 seconds left in the game.
The Latham brothers – Drew and Davis – accounted for the bulk of FCB’s scoring. Drew hooked up with Davis on a 25-yard touchdown pass, and he scored on a one-yard quarterback sneak. The Broncos defense was anchored by nose tackle Chris Figueroa.
The Broncs topped the West Baltimore Ducks (Md.) 38-6 in the first round and lost 36-2 to the MLK Texans in round two. After going 2-6 in the Piedmont Youth Football and Cheer League, the team was an unlikely postseason success story. The team’s regular season record is misleading. They lost two games each to the Rams and Indians, who finished one and two, respectively, in the PYFCL standings.
“Our record in league play didn’t look too good, but four of our losses came against very strong competition,” said Coach Kevin Howell. “Those games prepared us for Florida. Before we lost in the second round, we had won seven games in a row. It’s been a great ride. Our kids never gave up.”
The Kernersville Raiders Cadets finished in third-place in DI, after losing in the first round to the eventual national champs the Southside Cowboys (Texas).
They beat the Helping Hands Bulldogs (Fla.) 31-0 in the consolation game. First-year running back Isaac Sutton opened the scoring with a 26-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Kernersville erupted for 24 points in the second half, with the defense doing its part by forcing turnovers that led to scores. John Jackson III sacked the Bulldogs quarterback and forced a fumble. Sutton picked up the loose ball and ran it back 45 yards for a touchdown. Antonio Yates had a 50-yard interception return for another score.
The onslaught started in the third quarter when quarterback Caden Davis fired a 35-yard touchdown pass to Yates. On Kernersville’s final score, Davis switched positions with wide receiver Arrington Jones, who threw a 10-yard scoring pass to Davis.
“I’m proud and excited about what this team accomplished,” said Coach Antonio Davis.
Also in DI, the Winston-Salem Tiny Rams Junior Midgets fell 19-6 to Helping Hands in the second round of the consolation bracket. The Rams’ lone score came on a 60-yard touchdown pass from Stephon Brown to Drel Timmons.
Dravon Edwards, Khalid Martin and Lee Kpogba turned in strong performances for the Rams (11-3).
“Our kids competed, but couldn’t come out on top,” said Coach Chris Key. “They didn’t win in Florida, but as far as I’m concerned, they’re winners all the way around.”