WARREN, NJ - "We're going to Disney!," was the cheer heard across town. With a strong second half performance, the Watchung Hills Pop Warner Junior Pee Wee team pulled away from the Pennsylviana State Champion, Lenape Valley Indians for a 12-0 victory. The Wolverines are now 13-0 and have won the Division 2 Eastern Region Championship game. The win sends the team to the 58th Annual Pop Warner Super Bowl at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Walt Disney World, Florida next week. Game captains were Justin Ferreira, Jack Valenti, Justin Drews, and Luke Marion.
There are eight regional champions that advanced to Orlando for the Pop Warner Super Bowl. It takes three wins at Disney to earn a National Championship. The 2006 Junior Pee Wee squad made it to the finals before losing; going 14-1 overall that year. This is just the second time in the 44 year history of the program that a Watchung Hills team has made it this far. The current Junior Pee Wees are a collection of boys who were either 11, 10, or 9 years old at the start of the season in August.
Two top teams battled through a scoreless first half in frigid conditions at Camden Catholic High School in Cherry Hill, NJ. Both teams were strong on defense throughout the game. In the first quarter, the Watchung Hills Wolverines got the first defensive stop to take over on downs. Jack Reale had all three of his tackles in the first period of play. Watchung Hills then moved the ball a little before they gave it back to the Pennsylvania squad on downs as well.
The second quarter played out very similar to the first. In this period, both teams advanced the ball with solid drives that came up a little short. Lenape Valley eventually turned it over on downs to Watchung Hills while the Wolverines stalled on a fumble in Indian territory. The game went to the half tied at zero.
The Wolverine defense saved the day time and time again during this championship game. Lenape Valley again turned it over on downs to start the third quarter of play. Justin Ferreira led the team in tackles for the game with ten. Josh Claxton and Luke Marion both recorded eight take-downs; while Mac McAteer and Justin Drews chipped in with six tackles apiece.
Another good drive by Watchung Hills seemed like it might come up short again until some fancy moves saved the day. Ferreira made two defenders miss on 4th and long as he carried for a Wolverine 1st down. Next, the Wolverines attempted a pass in the windy conditions. Ferreira juggled the catch as he went to the ground but the referee signaled that the reception was good. Watchung Hills was set up deep in Lenape Valley territory.
Ferreira scored on a short touchdown run with :48 seconds remaining in the 3rd quarter. The extra point run failed but Watchung Hills took a 6-0 lead as the period came to a close. Early in the 4th quarter, the Wolverine defense had yet another big stop on 4th down. The momentum started to swing in the Watchung Hills favor as Luke Marion's strong run advanced the ball into Lenape Valley territory. With about four minutes to go in the game the Wolverines could have sealed the victory with another score but couldn't get a key first down.
It was a fitting end to the game to have the Wolverine defense called on for another important series. The Indians mixed in some pass plays with their run game but Watchung was ready. For the fifth and final time, Lenape Valley couldn't gain much yardage against the disciplined Wolverine defense and Watchung Hills took over on downs deep in Indian territory. With time running out, the Wolverines were conservative with the play-calling to keep the clock moving. Despite of the cautious approach, Ferreira cracked the goal line late in the game to seal the deal with another touchdown run. The extra point kick failed but it didn't matter and the Wolverines were Division 2 Regional Champions with a 12-0 victory. You can view the complete bracket at: http://www.popwarner.com/Page4392.aspx
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