Lowell comes up short at Disney in Pop Warner nationals
BY ANTHONY D. ALONZO Post-Tribune correspondent December 6, 2012 11:22PM
Updated: January 8, 2013 6:31AM
After a successful regular season and having stormed through the Northern Indiana Pop Warner playoffs with five consecutive shutout wins, the Lowell pee wee football team took a winning attitude to sunny Florida for the organization’s nationals.
The Lowell, or Southlake, Red Devils lost to the Gilbert-Chandler Spurs (Ariz.) 14-6 on Saturday and was edged out by the Evergreen Bulldogs (Wash.) in the consolation game on Tuesday, 29-26, at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
“We really like to smash the ball right up the gut so (opponents) have a taste of their own medicine,” said center Bradley Miley, via phone shortly after arriving at the sports complex.
Also before the games, corner back/wide receiver/tight end Joel Dearing said his opinions of the team’s chances started to change for the better early in its 4-2 regular season. He said he “couldn’t believe it” that he made it to nationals twice, including a visit with another Lowell squad last year.
Known for their stout defense and aggressive running game, many of the 20 players quickly gained perspective about the disappointing outcomes.
“It was a great feeling that you get to play with other teams from around the United States,” said right tackle Trey Cook, via phone after their consolation game loss. “We are one of the top-8 teams (among Pop Warner pee wees).”
Perhaps a recognition of the higher stakes and the presence of professional camera crews that streamed live action on the ESPN3 website could have given rise to the proverbial butterflies for the 12- and 13-year-old players.
“We started out very nervous,” head coach Tom Surowiec said. “We looked at (the players) and said, ‘it’s 75 degrees, you’re in Florida, everybody back home is freezing, and you’ve got to enjoy this.’”
He said both nationals opponents were amazing teams. And the second loss, against Evergreen, Wash., was particularly tough since the Red Devils led with four minutes left in what was a shoot-out of a game.
Leading 19-16, Lowell kicked off to the Bulldogs, who ran it in for a touchdown using a reverse play. After a Southlake turnover led to an Evergreen score, the Red Devils ran a kickoff in for a touchdown.
Surowiec credited halfback Tucker Greenholt and quarterback Logan O’Hanlon for playing well against defenses that were quick to adjust.
Perhaps the fun of being on an entertainment megaplex with their buddies and away from school and a blustery Northwest Indiana December quickly reset players’ moods after their games. Smartphones in hand, some of the boys sent frequent reminders to friends back home about the lovely Florida weather.
“It’s great to be in Florida right now while my other friends and family are at home freezing their butts off and I’m just having a good time,” said defensive tackle Kory King.
The fun of the Sunshine State will soon be in the rearview mirror as most players expect to be home by the weekend. With memory cards full, they can look ahead to their possibilities as junior midgets next year.
“We’re hoping we get them all back for next season,” said Surowiec.