The Bobcats’ 10U and 12U team both brought home the top prize after hard-fought tournaments.
When the 10U West Orange Bobcats took the field Sunday, Dec. 9, the Waco Southern Panthers were standing in their way.
While the Bobcats had simply driven across Orlando to get to the site of the championship at Bishop Moore, the Panthers had come all the way from Texas in hopes of taking home a title.
But that moment never came for the Panthers. Instead, the Bobcats landed on the right side of a 20-12 scoreline to win the 10U AAU National Football Tournament.
“We have a lot of guys who can play, and that’s where we separate ourselves — everybody has guys who can play, we just have more,” said Mike Chism, assistant coach on the 10U team. “I don’t think the team from Texas has played a team as physical as we were or as fast as we are. We’ve got guys who can go.”
Chism and the coaching staff needed everything their boys could give in that title game, as a 14-0 lead at the half dwindled to a 14-12 lead in the second.
But just as things got dicey, defender Saphir Miller swooped in to save the day and the game when he jumped in front of a pass and returned it all the way to the house on a pick-six — sealing the 20-12 win.
“I don’t think the team from Texas has played a team as physical as we were or as fast as we are. We’ve got guys who can go.”
— Mike Chism
The victory was the culmination of a fast-paced postseason during which the Bobcats played several games in four days — including two half-games Thursday, two half-games Friday, two half-games on Saturday and then the championship bout Sunday.
Despite the heavy workload, Chism said the Bobcats were more than ready to take on the 16-team field — which was filled with the best teams from around the country — thanks in large part to the toughness of the teams they play in Central Florida.
“They see good competition throughout our league — that’s the advantage of being in a pretty good area,” Chism said. “We don’t really try to say a whole lot about other teams when we get ready to play them. We really focus on us and our execution.”
Although winning a national title is big news for the area’s youth football scene, it’s building a culture centered on building the work ethic and confidence of its kids that really has Chism excited about the program’s future.
“In terms of little league football in this area, the West Orange program is really starting to establish itself as a really solid program,” Chism said. “It’s a good program to be associated with … all the teams are starting to get pretty dang strong.”
12U BOBCATS WIN BIG
The 10U team wasn’t the only squad out of West Orange that found glory at the end of the road. Ike Taylor led the 12U Bobcats to pick up a dominating 27-0 win over Apopka in the finals.
And just like the 10U team, Taylor’s 12U side fought their way through a slew of games from Thursday through Saturday to make it to championship Sunday.
“I told my coaching staff and my kids the first practice, ‘We don’t want trophies; we want the rings,’” Taylor said. “I said, ‘Man, I lost to the Packers in our Super Bowl in Dallas, and I would like to get that third ring, and I would like for y’all to get a ring.’”
Thanks in part to strong coaching and hard work from his kids, the 12U Bobcats were able to bring home that third ring for the former Pittsburgh Steeler, as well as rings for themselves.
The win was also a bit of redemption for the Bobcats following a tough loss in the state championship back on Saturday, Dec. 1, against East Orlando.
The bad taste that was leftover from that 14-7 loss proved to be a big talking point for Taylor, who used it as motivation.
“They handed us a second-place trophy, and I wanted to throw it in the garbage can,” Taylor said. “But I said, ‘For the hard work these kids did, I will accept this trophy, but I’m looking for the trophy that stands on the ground at 4-foot-11,’ and the kids bought into it and the coaching staff was already with it.”
Now Taylor, his coaching staff — which includes Joe Bridgewater, Brian Furrey and Eduardo Madrid — and his players have that trophy, as well. But like Chism, Taylor hopes his kids have taken away more from the game than just winning.
“Brotherhood — all I care about is the brotherhood,” Taylor said. “I don’t care about anything else, because the brotherhood is going to take care of everything else. Brotherhood makes you unselfish, and being unselfish makes you a better person.”