ORLANDO - Following an epic 17 weeks of dominating football the Oakleaf Renegades 10-Under Pop Warner team, led by prolific tailback Calvin Ferguson’s three scores, held off a second half surge by …
ORLANDO - Following an epic 17 weeks of dominating football the Oakleaf Renegades 10-Under Pop Warner team, led by prolific tailback Calvin Ferguson’s three scores, held off a second half surge by the Addison Cowboys of Illinois to win a 34-19 national championship title in just their third year of existence.
“This is the first time in about 25 years that a team from the First Coast Conference in the northeast Jacksonville area, has been to the championship game,” said First Coast Conference President Dean Prince. “The last team that got close was a team from Ponte Vedra that lost a thriller in the national semifinal game.”
For Carlos Lowe, in his third year at the helm of the Renegades who only started playing in the newly-constructed Oakleaf Youth Sports, the Renegades have blistered their way through a season that started August 1.
“I was in Pensacola in Perdido Bay Buccaneers a few years ago and we made it all the way to the semifinals,” said Lowe, a U.S. Marine. “This was my second time around. We told the kids last week that this whole week was either going to be a fun one and we started partying after our semifinal win.”
With the game seemingly in hand behind tailback Calvin Ferguson three 50-plus yard scoring runs and a dash from Keonte Ayers, the Renegades bolted to a 27-0 lead on the Addison team to go into the half with the same point total as their two previous wins; 27-0 in both the quarterfinals and in Tuesday’s semifinal win over Lower Perks of Pennsylvania.
Prince, involved in Pop Warner and youth sports for nearly 30 years in the Jacksonville area, appreciated the efforts of Renegades coach Carlos Lowe and the Oakleaf area community, said he went into the tunnel of the Camping World Stadium to get the championship trophy at one point in the second half and returned the to field with the game a lot closer.
“Addison started to come back on the Oakleaf team, but a strip tackle and fumble recovery by the Renegades on a Cowboy breakaway seemed to turn the game around,” said Prince. “That Addison team was starting to make their move.”
The fumble; tackle by Ferguson on a breakaway run by Addison, fumble pick up by Antonio Hamilton, led to a final touchdown by Ferguson to move the score from 27-19 to 34-19.
“Calvin Ferguson did an amazing run after that fumble to set the game,” said Chris Kennedy, in his first year as director of the Oakleaf Youth Sports Association.”Our staff is full of plenty of military guys that understand discipline and focus to task. We have quality coaches that teach the kids good football and good sportsmanship and they just settled in and maintained the course.”
Kennedy said the team plans a Saturday banquet on Saturday to honor the team and then a Wed., Dec. 21 date with the Jacksonville Iceman hockey team.
“The kids are excited to be on the field; the big field was a special excitement,” said Prince. “The Florida Citrus Association has been a big part of giving the kids a quality experience with all the amenities in the Orlando area. The Oakleaf community should be commended for their fundraising and support of the kids to make all this happen.”