Warriors Peewee Travel Team season recap

Pictured (front row, l-r) T.J. Bowman, Joseph Alba, Michael Murphy, Jarrett Burch, Domenic Arena, James Werner, (second row, l-r) Anthony Caserta, Donvito Kuinlan, Jonathan Collins, Justin Collins, D. J. Cassidy, Tyrrell Halliman, Angel Aponte, (third row, l-r) Edwin Webber, Shane Cherry, Justin Acosta, Romelo Brown, Ceaser Holcombe, Giancarlo Furio, Jayson Gonzalez, (top row, l-r) coach Tim Burch, coach Vinny Caserta, head coach Larry Arena, coach Dave Cassidy, coach Tyrone Bowman, missing coach Michael Collins.

The Kaseman Chiropractic Warrior Peewee travel team concluded their season on Sunday 11/16 with a victory over the South Ward Golden Bears 13-12. It was a battle of undefeated league champions which lived up to all the hype. The Golden Bears hail from the Newark Pop Warner league which has traditionally been one of the tri state areas toughest leagues. They showed everyone in attendance why they were able to dominate their opponents this season as they proved to be fast and tough. The Warriors were just slightly faster and tougher as they fielded a sparse roster of only 16 players with the majority having to play both offense and defense. As they have in all their games they found a way to win. The offense was limited due to the cold and windy conditions but was able control the clock and generate 159 yards on the ground. The only completion of the day was a 47 yard hookup from James Werner to Domenic Arena which gave a huge advantage in field position to the Warriors whose drive would stall at the Golden Bears 5 yard line. From there the defense would take over and force a three and out. The ensuing punt into the wind would only travel ten yards where it was fielded by Michael Murphy and returned to the five yard line. From there the Warriors pounded it in as James Werner took a quarterback keep into the end-zone. The extra point play which would become the difference in the game was a fumbled snap that an alert Jayson Gonzalez would scoop up and take in for the conversion. Defense would rule the rest of the first half as the Warriors held the Golden Bears to only one first down. Leading the charge were ILB’s Caesar Holcomb and Donvito Kuinlan who moved sideline to sideline. The defensive line also came up big as Justin Acosta, Jayson Gonzalez, TJ Bowman and Romelo Brown applied constant pressure. On the outside, Giancarlo Furio and DJ Cassidy provided outstanding containment with Furio coming up with a huge sack at the end of the half. The second half started with another three and out for the defense and when the offense returned to the field they seemed to put the game away. On their third play, Shane Cherry took a 34 cross buck handoff from Werner and busted through a huge hole opened by Kuinlan and Jarrett Birch. Cherry sprinted 49 yards in what seemed like 3 seconds to put the Warriors up 13-0 with four minutes left in the third quarter.

The Golden Bears responded like champions themselves as they drove down the field on a tired Warriors defense and scored as the third quarter ended. The extra point attempt was well defensed by cornerback Michael Murphy and safety Domenic Arena to cut the score to 13-6. A rare four and out and subsequent 52 yard sweep by the Golden Bears cut the lead to 13-12 with the extra point being needed to tie. Enter Jayson Gonzalez who got great penetration and stopped the sweep attempt in the backfield. The Warriors proceeded to run out the last four minutes by controlling the clock with their ground game. Linemen Justin and Jason Collins along with center Anthony Caserta cleared holes and time ran out.

The Warriors finished their dream season with a record of nine victories in nine games in which they outscored their opponents 204-24. They won the NYC Pop Warner championship and with their victory over the Golden Bears finished in the top 32 Division I teams in the country. Although the Warriors were a well balanced team averaging 23 points a game, any opponent would tell you that defense was the trademark of this squad. Only three touchdowns were scored against them all year and none during league play. All great defenses start with a tough front four. Strong side tackle Jayson Gonzalez was the definition of tough this season as he terrorized opposing offenses with his brute strength and great instincts. His well earned nickname among the coaches was man-child. Weak side tackle Justin Acosta was every bit as disruptive as he owned the A gap all season. His combination of quickness and strength made every opposing blocker wish they had stayed home that day. Strong side defensive end Romelo Brown got better each week and was the largest of the front four. Romelo’s great penetration made opposing teams think long and hard about dropping back to pass. One of the season’s defensive highlights was Romelo’s fumble recovery and return for a touchdown against the Pride Lions which covered 35 yards. Weak side defensive end TJ Bowman used his low center of gravity to always maintain great leverage on blockers. He was often doubled teamed which allowed teammates to make plays. In the 4-4 defense, great responsibility is placed on the inside linebackers to make calls and determine the strength of an opposing offense. These players must also be strong enough to take on blocks of interior linemen and quick enough to drop into pass coverage. Caesar Holcomb was often the blitz linebacker in different defensive packages and he responded by leading the team in tackles. His ability to play sideline to sideline was very instrumental in the success of the defense. Fellow inside linebacker Domenic Arena usually made the defensive calls and was very good at recognizing opposing team’s tendencies. He was like having an extra coach on the field. Outside linebackers in this defense have a very important responsibility to play everything inside out. They have to contain opposing offenses and turn things back inside. DJ Cassidy was always in position to make sure plays were directed back inside to his teammates. His great footwork and vision allowed him to continually maintain outside leverage. DJ was also one of the team’s smartest players as he was always aware of each player’s responsibility in the called defense. OLB Giancarlo Furio used his athleticism to get great penetration which led to numerous tackles for losses. His tall frame and great reach allowed him to shed blocks and maintain outside leverage. In addition, he had a 50 yard interception return in the Warriors big non league win against the New City Rams. Cornerbacks Michael Murphy and Shane Cherry played their positions in the cover three perfectly all season. They were always in position and both were sure tacklers. Murphy came up big in the regional game as he made a host of big tackles and covered opposing receivers like a glove. Safeties Edwin Webber and Angel Aponte provided the defense with outstanding play all season. Webber in addition to seeing the whole field, finished off his tackles with the force of a linebacker. He was missed greatly when he broke his wrist in the NYC semifinal victory over the Pride Lions. Aponte was more of a ball hawk as he picked off three passes on the season with returns of 65, 47, and 26 yards to set up great field position for the offense. In addition to playing safety, Angel proved to be a huge weapon as the leagues most potent kicker often pinning teams deep in their own territory.

Offensively, the Warriors ran the spread offense this year which requires linemen to hold blocks and get out to linebackers. As it is with any offensive scheme, line play will often dictate success or failure. Jonathan and Jason Collins provided a double dose of trouble for opposing defenses all season. The left guard and tackle were often the focal point for misdirection runs. They also mastered the contact to crab technique by season’s end which made them even more effective. Right guard Donvito Kuinlan was the most consistent blocker all season. When a yard needed to be gained, the Bone Tight 12 Dive was the call and that call went right behind the block of number 69. Kuinlan also provided much needed depth on both the defensive line and at inside linebacker. This depth was invaluable by seasons end when the team was down to sixteen players. Kuinlan’s partner on the right side of the line was Jarrett Birch. Jarrett very often had to release to the linebacker which is not an easy block for the tackle. His effectiveness on this block allowed the offense to get the corner and resulted in a number of large gains and touchdown runs. In the spread offense, the majority of plays are run from the shotgun formation. Timing is crucial because of the many plays that require a motion back. All of this leads to the center being the most integral part of the offensive line. Anthony Caserta did an outstanding job with his snaps all season which allowed the offense to run smoothly. He often was able to get out and make a block after the snap which only increased the offense’s effectiveness. Anthony also served as the team’s backup quarterback and had a good grasp of the offense. The player he backed up was starting quarterback James Werner. Werner was in complete control of the offense and understood all the intricacies of what made a good play call work. He handled the complicated offense as if he was familiar with it for years. James finished the season passing for 1006 yards on 47 completions in 69 attempts for a 68% completion percentage. His 1 yard TD plunge in the regional game broke the ice for the offense in their eventual victory. Split ends in the spread must be good blockers as well as good receivers. Joey Alba was an absolute blocking machine from his right split end position. His countless blocks allowed numerous touchdown runs by the backs. In addition to his blocking, Joey hauled in 16 passes for 254 yards and was the team’s number one deep threat. His counterpart, left split end Tyrell Halliman led the team in receptions as he caught 22 passes foe 347 yards and three touchdowns. Tyrell should only get better as he was the team’s only first year player this season. The running game this season was a huge success as the team rushed for over 2100 yards. Fullback Jayson Gonzalez bulled his way to 634 yards and 6TD’s as he crashed the middle and set up his teammates to run the outside. Tailback Domenic Arena took full advantage of the attention that Gonzalez demanded by accumulating over 1,000 from scrimmage this season. Domenic rushed for 859 yards and added 226 receiving while scoring 10 TD’s. His acrobatic moves were appreciated by the fans and his blocking in the passing game also proved to be essential to the success of the offense. Tailback Shane Cherry was also a duel threat as he accrued 679 yards from scrimmage. He rushed for 466 yards and added 213 receiving. His raw speed made the outcome of his runs an afterthought once he reached the corner. Shane scored 10 TD’s on the season with four coming in one game as he single handedly ruined the Pride Lions hopes for an upset in the playoffs as he accounted for 151 yards of total offense. Caesar Holcomb and TJ Bowman provided the depth in the backfield. Caesar rushed for 183 yards and two TD’s while Bowman accounted for 104 yards and three TD’s.

The Warriors in addition to being the best Pee Wee team in the city this year were fortunate enough to have the best support of any team as well. Their fans were present and vocal from the hot days of August to the chilling conditions of November. The coaches would like to thank them for their relentless support and would like to let the players know how much they appreciate the effort that they gave this season.

Warrior Chief, Jay Demers and the rest of the Administrative Staff would like to congratulate this team and their coaches for their outstanding season. The Chief said “these players and coaches were a credit to the Warrior Organization.”

Special thanks goes to Head Coach Larry Arena for his outstanding work with this team.

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