Coach Kennedy Sio only had three days to assemble and prepare a team to take part in the annual Gridiron Warrior Football Classic last weekend.
And, with a little luck and a lot of hard work, the Jr. Pee Wee Division (9-11 year olds) Murrieta Panthers came out on top as champions.
“Teams came from all over to take part in the tournament. There were some from Palmdale, Pico Rivera. They were all competitive teams,” said Sio.
The tournament was held at Los Alamos Sports Park in Murrieta.
Sio, an eight-year coaching veteran, said that it was a team effort on both sides of the ball that secured the win after going undefeated in the three-game series.
“Basically it was hard-nosed defense and smash-mouth, run-the-ball kind of football that did it for us,” Sio said.
The Murrieta Panthers defeated the Temecula Titans 24-12 in game one, before shutting out Grossmont 34-0 in the second game.
The championship pitted the Panthers against their crosstown rivals — the Temecula Titans — for a second time. The Panthers emerged with a 19-6 win.
Among the game-changing plays was a bad snap by the Panthers’ center the sent the ball hurtling about 10 yards behind the quarterback. In a heads-up play, Panthers’ running back Malosi Napoleon recovered the ball and ran for a 40-yard touchdown, Sio said.
Sio credits the team for a tremendous effort, but also assistant coaches Pete and Pat Keleher, Mike Lench, Rick Otero and Gilbert Vela for their coaching support.
To learn more about the Murrieta Panthers Football League and Cheer, visit www.murrietapanthers.com.