West Orange Junior Warriors welcome newcomers

The Junior Warriors youth football organization has been the beneficiary of an influx of players and coaches — including three with NFL playing experience.

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  • | 11:30 a.m. August 18, 2016
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WINTER GARDEN The West Orange Junior Warriors, a youth football organization operating in Winter Garden and competing in the Florida Elite Football and Cheerleading league, has benefited from some new faces this fall.

The organization, which holds its practices at Lakeview Middle School, has received an influx of players — and coaches — who formerly were a part of the Ocoee-Wekiva Cardinals organization, which participates in the Central Florida Youth Football League.

The Cardinals drew players zoned for Ocoee High, Wekiva High and — because of the absence of a team in Winter Garden —also West Orange High. The team played its home games in 2015 at the city of Ocoee’s youth football facility, Bulldog Field. 

So, when the CFYFL expressed intentions to make the team more of a Wekiva-based organization (the team has since been rebranded as the Wekiva Cardinals), leaders, including Victoria Shugart and Julian Pittman, reevaluated their options in consideration of the athletes who were Winter Garden and Ocoee residents. They decided to merge with the Winter Garden-based Warriors after meeting with Junior Warriors President Antwan Nelson.

“We felt that responsibility to continue that with the kids in (the Winter Garden and Ocoee) area,” Shugart said. “We chose the (Junior) Warriors for the fact that Antwan Nelson and I were able to get that relationship. It seems to be a great thing.”

The influx of players — Shugart estimates that 65% to 75% of their players with the Cardinals came over with them — gives an obvious benefit, in terms of depth and talent for each team. 

But perhaps just as consequential is the merger of coaching staffs. Joining Junior Warriors coaches already in place are most of the coaches from last year’s Cardinals, including a trio of former NFL players: Pittman, Sam Williams and William Floyd.

In addition to the expertise of men who have played the game at its highest level, the Junior Warriors are also an affordable option relative to other youth football league, with an early sign-up rate that was as low as $75 at one point. 

The Junior Warriors are near capacity for football players entering the regular season opener this Saturday, but spots are still open for its cheerleading program.

Players are excited and ready for their home-opener games against the Osceola Panthers this Saturday at Walker Field in Winter Garden.

“It’s been a very smooth transition,” Shugart said. “At the end of the day, we’re all here for the kids.”


Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected]


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