WARREN, NJ - The Watchung Hills Pop Warner program hosted Regional games this weekend in the Junior Peewee and Peewee divisions in the second round of the Eastern region playoffs.
THE END. While not the ending that the Watchung Hills Pop Warner Junior Pee Wee Blue Team had wanted, it was, nonetheless, the end of the 2017 season for this incredible team following a 6-0 loss to the Ward 5 Warriors of Washington DC in the second round of the Eastern Region Playoffs.
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On a day when Watchung Hills Pop Warner hosted a fantastic day of elite level youth football and a touching commemoration of Veterans Day, it was perhaps fitting that this team honored our Veterans with a tenacity that everyone could be proud of and further demonstrated their respect for our heroes by carrying onto the field during pregame the Stars and Stripes of this great nation.
Despite the loss to this formidable opponent, the boys have lots to be proud of over the past two seasons following back to back Jersey Valley Conference Championships and two journey’s deep into the Eastern Region Playoffs. While the accomplishments of these fine young men will forever be memorialized on banners hanging along the fence of the Old Stirling Pop Warner Facility, it will undoubtedly be the memories of successes achieved and the challenges they overcame that will forever be etched in the hearts of these Wolverines.
As has been the case all season, these boys fought to the end and never gave up hope of turning around the slim advantage that their opponents had achieved against a very fierce and determined defense that had previously kept all but one opponent out of the end zone all year long. A 9-1 season having conceded only 12 points all year was a remarkable achievement.
Anchored by ballhawks Scott Drews and David Reale at safety, Ferocious linebackers Cristian Gioia, Brennan Fahs, Kyle Chechio, Ryan Johnson, Brayden Kelly, Relentless lineman David Dubas, Jaden Fernandez, Rocco Salerno, Max Philips, Jack Martin, Braden Fenton and the shutdown corners of Jack Clintock, Mason Kelly, Matthew Kominski and Dylan Downey - this defense played each week with a determination to be admired and it was no surprise that once again these boys fought tooth and nail throughout this encounter.
A series of key stops and an INT by Jack Clintock typified the “bend don’t break” persona this group has adopted all year.
On the offensive side of the ball the Wolverines were ultimately unable to break down their opponents. A number of mental errors and execution mishaps, coupled with a number of injuries sustained to key contributors, ultimately made the task insurmountable despite everyone’s best efforts.
Throughout the season the team was led by feature back Ryan Johnson and a tough ground attack that included the pounding of backs Brennan Fahs and David Dubas, and deft contributions from Kyle Chechio, Cristian Gioia, Braden Fenton, Braden Kelly, David Reale and Dylan Downey. Scott Drews and Mason Kelly superbly led the team from the QB position with excellent receivers Jack Clintock, Cristian Gioia, David Reale and Brayden Kelly moving the ball down the field. Upfront, Max Philips delivered flawless snaps as Jack Martin, Alek Bergners, Matteus Conforti, Jackson Acosta, Rocco Salerno, Brennan Fahs, David Dubas, Braden Fenton, Brayden Kelly and Cristian Gioia battled all season long to create holes and protect the QB’s.
On special teams, Braden Fenton and Jack Clintock shared PAT kicks, while Ryan Johnson dutifully handled punts throughout the season.
As he has all season long, Defensive Coordinator Carl Chechio put together an astute game plan that once again demonstrated his uncanny knack of being able to anticipate the offensive game plan of the opposition. Coaches Greg Dubas, Steve Kelly, Tony Clintock, Todd Kelly and Mick Marion worked tirelessly with the team to prepare and develop them for this level of elite competition. However, the “secret sauce” were undoubtedly the Team Mom’s - Anne Johnson and Amy Martin who kept the boys, cool, warm, fed, hydrated and cared for all season long.
Head Coach, Mark Fenton, said “I couldn’t be more proud of this team. Back in August we set a series lofty goals for this team and they’ve worked so hard to achieve so many of those goals. While we eventually fell short of our ultimate goal, from our Team Moms, to our Coaches, to our players, to the whole Watchung Hills Pop Warner organization and it’s Board - this is an incredible group of people who have reached for the stars and just missed! The incredible level of commitment and determination demonstrated by this team will forever stay with them and I’m convinced that next year we will be able to build on these successes. These young men will remember this season for a long long time and I’m certain every single one of them will draw from these experiences. These friendships forged through football adversity that a sometimes bigger and faster opponent provides these young men was invaluable for life - the season was a blessing that all of the coaches will cherish forever. Personally, I’d like to thank the parents for entrusting their sons with us and as Coach Kelly said at the beginning of the season - football is a sport that is far bigger than just the game - lessons are learnt and challenges are faced that shape these boys. If what we’ve seen this year is any indication of their future - these boys will become wonderful young men and fabulous adults having demonstrated such steely determination.”
This Junior Pee Wee team will now spend its weekends rooting on their older peers as they draw inspiration from these athletes as they continue to pursue their own goals and aspirations.
The Peewee game pitted the Monroe Wolverines against the Watchung Hills Wolverines. Watchung Hills Pee Wees felt pressure of having to change the momentum to a winning atmosphere! For the first half it was unclear if that was ever going to happen, as Watchung Hills was down 8 to 0 until the 3rd quarter. Then Watchung Hills rallied to score 14 points in the second half in a very hard-fought game that mainly stayed between the thirties. As per usual the line play of the Watchung Hills Peewees was very strong on both sides of the ball. Jack Tierney, Joe Bechtle, Nathan Downey, Miguel Sauceda, Justin Sanchez, Dylan Simon, Nirio Garcia, Alex Lopez, Joe Vecchio, James Burke, and Joseph Anweiler all contributed. The kicking game was outstanding due to the tremendous performance put forth by Riley (THE FOOT AND HANDS) McCann. Mike (BIG RED) Tales had an outstanding game rushing with two touchdowns. He ran downhill all day. Other outstanding performances all over the field were had by Dante (INFERNO) Gioia and Nirio (THE HAMMER) Garcia. This exciting contest ended with Monroe in a no huddle offense looking to score, but Riley McAnn was having none of that. He intercepted the downfield pass to end any hopes of a comeback. Watchung Hills won 14-8 and advance to the 3rd round of regional playoffs.