Local Pop Warner teams still going strong in quest for championships

Members of the Forestview Outlaws mitey mite Pop Warner celebrate after a win this season. The Outlaws and the Westside Wildcats are both playing in the championship games of the Mid-America/Southeast event on Dec. 9. (Deante Hampton Sr.)

Championship dates await a pair of area Pop Warner football teams.

The Westside Wildcats beat the Gary Steelers 46-0 in the junior peewee bracket on Sunday. The Forestview Outlaws beat the LaPorte Slicers 36-0 in the mitey mite division.

Next up: the Mid-America/Southeast championship showdowns on Wednesday in St. Cloud and Winter Garden for the Wildcats and Outlaws, respectively. Westside faces the Fort Myers Firecats at 11 a.m. The Outlaws will face the Sarasota Sun Devils at 4 p.m.

Even though things look quite a bit different for Pop Warner teams this year, a title is still a title, said Westside coach Shawn Fountain.

And it’s very much within reach for both local teams.

“They have the exact same excitement, exact same energy that they had last year, even with it being kind of modified this year,” he said. “Exact same energy. They’re not devaluing the experience because it’s not as Wide World of Sports. They all have the same common goal, they want to be national champions, whether its only half of the regions that’s playing or the whole Pop Warner [field]. End of the day, we’re here now and we want to be champions when we leave.”

COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the full Pop Warner Super Bowl and moved what championships were left out of Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex. Instead of a traditional Super Bowl which includes qualifiers from eight regions across the country, only two regions played this year.

Teams from Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Missouri, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota competed in the Mid-America region. Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi teams played in the Southeast region.

“The kids, they’re enjoying and as long as they feel like that, I’m fine with it,” said Outlaws coach Deante Hampton Sr. “It ain’t the same [as in the past]. I wanted my rematch with like Virginia Beach and all them other teams that’s not here. But it’s still, you’re in the playoffs and it’s still a bracket and the kids just want to play football and they’re having fun.”

A win by Westside would be its third championship in as many seasons. The Wildcats won the junior pee wee crown last year and the Division I title in 2018.

In Westside’s semifinal rout, production came from all over the place.

Knox Annis, Michael Conner, Ty Keister, Jacari Mixson, Syncere Murphy, Mario Pratt, Jaqaun Smith and Tre Williams scored in the blowout.

Forestview last played for a championship in 2015, losing to Virginia Beach 12-8.

Warren Covington, Deante Hampton Jr., Dazon Middleton and Romeo Rolack all found the end zone for Forestview in its win.

Both local programs are rooting each other on.

“Westside came out and supported us last night and we’re going to go out there Wednesday morning before their game [and cheer them on]. And then we’re going to go to ours,” Hampton said.

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