DECATUR — Saturday was the day of championships for youth football in Monroe County.
Tellico Plains brought its Super Crickets to the title game — taking on the Bradley County Super Crickets while Sweetwater brought three teams with it — Crickets, Hoppers and Cutters. The Sweetwater Hoppers took home the Sequoyah Conference Championship in their division, beating the Bradley County Cutters in overtime.
“Gage McDaniel is playing corner for me and he has done a good job. He is learning to contain. It is hard getting four and five year olds to learn to stay in place. William Lethcoe, Ramsey Ervin and Hunter Walker are my key guys,” Jordan Best said.
The Bears started their year with only two kids who have played football before, but managed to put up a strong season.
“A lot of growing and a lot of bonding (this year),” Jordan Best said. “It is a great group of kids who have come together. To be here today is a big win for us.”
Landon Best was named offensive MVP for Tellico Plains.
“He has been following his blockers and reading the field,” Jordan Best said. “He is still five years old too. It was a great team effort to be here and I couldn’t be more proud of my son. Right now, they are all my boys.”
Issac Williams was named defensive MVP.
“He has dominated. He has been like this anytime we have pulled flags,” Jordan Best said. “He will be hard to deal with when he gets in shoulder pads.”
“This year’s been great. We’ve been undermatched on the line all year,” Sweetwater Crickets Coach James Barr said. “We average about 60 pounds and everyone else averages about 90 or 100, but I’ll tell you our guys really have some heart and they fought hard and finished the regular season 7-1, and made it to the championship game. This is a big conference and we play some big schools like Lenoir City and Loudon.”
Braxton Frank, the offensive MVP, rushed for 94 yards on 14 attempts. The Wildcats totaled 212 yards — Gage Gaddy ran for 48 yards, George Gonzalez gained 44 yards and Levi Albright ran for 26 yards.
“I am real proud of what this team has done this year. At the first of the year I had my doubts with a small line, but the guys really fought hard and bought into the system,” Barr said. “We’ve got really good assistant coaches that have volunteered their time and I appreciate all of them and the parents. Even to finish second, it has been a great year.”
The Wildcats reached the championship game, finishing the year with only two losses. A feat that is highlighted by the work starting with their undersized line.
“Jacoby and Campbell Betis (stepped up). Several of them that stepped up this year. The whole line did. And our backs — Gage Gaddy, George Gonzalez, Levi Albirght — and the quarterback, Braxton Frank, did a great job,” Barr said.
Gage Gaddy took home defensive MVP with two tackles. Frank and Levi Albright snagged two tackles as well. Frank and Jacoby Shelton assisted each other on a tackle while Nolan Couch had a hit in the backfield for a five-yard loss.
“I ran the ball and got the touchdown. It feels good. We went 9-0 and then won the championship,” Davis said.
Davis was the most frequently used back in the win — gaining 56 yards on 11 carries — picking up Sweetwater’s offensive MVP award.
“It wasn’t the way I wanted to win, but that’s great football right there — all the way to the wire,” Sweetwater Coach Marcus Johnson said. “I was expecting to beat them, maybe by two touchdowns. We had one called back, which hurt us a little bit, but the boys fought back and had two goal line stands. Couldn’t ask for any more.”
The Wildcats’ defense shutout Bradley County in the championship game — marking eight shutouts in their 9-0 season.
The Wildcats defense stood strong throughout the year and their season was capped off with big performances across the field in the final game.
“We got Danny Contreras, Kathan West, Kasen Mizer, Kaine Davis, Zach Sisk, Jayden Knox, Pat Upton, Ashton Johnkins and Malik Johnson (who all made plays,)” Johnson said. “Malik Johnson showed up on both sides of the ball. He is more of an offensive threat for us, but he stepped up and made some big plays. Pat Upton made some game saving tackles. It was man against boys out there. My linebackers played phenomenal.”
Sisk had five tackles, one for a loss, leading the team, while Elijah Albright followed behind with four. Davis and Mizer tallied three tackles each. Contreras — the game’s defensive MVP — totaled two tackles and a sack. Johnkins had two while West, Knox, Upton and Noah Watson all had one tackle.
West rushed for seven yards, Johnson for five and Johnkins rushed for two.
Landon Murphy broke away for a 28-yard run to put the Wildcats on the board in their championship game with Bryer Oody punching in a score from the one-yard line late in the game. However, a McMinn touchdown with under four minutes to play kept the Wildcats from winning the league crown.
“Our boys fought all year long and we overcame a lot of stuff,” Sweetwater Coach Payton Robinette said. “We had a bunch of injuries early on. We faced a lot of obstacles as it was, so it ended up good. Somebody has to win and somebody has to lose — we will be back next year.”
Murphy picked up the game’s offensive MVP award — rushing for 133 yards on 12 attempts. Cordell Davis followed with 28 yards, 24 for Ty Fitch and 2 for Oody.
Landon Albright was named the defensive MVP — tallying five tackles.
“Landon Murphy and Landon Albright are absolute studs. They’re hard workers. They out work everybody,” Robinette said. “Cordell Davis is another one who is crazy good. He has a lot of potential for his future. He will be here in high school one day showing out. We had a bunch of kids who had breakout years that we didn’t think were going to be here. Ty Fitch had improved tremendously. Zayvion McAllister has helped us huge.”
Murphy had seven tackles and Fitch finished with three. Murphy also picked off a McMinn pass to compliment his performance.