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Super Times on the Southside

Grasshopper Spartans claim lone franchise championship

Southside’s Kristopher Kanwent celebrates with a teammate after the Super Bowl championship. Photos by Jenifer Clark

By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row

Rockford took the early lead in less than two minutes.

Isaac Fritts gets the play from Spartan coach Trent Russell.

If history has taught us anything, though, Spartans don’t fold.

Southside got touchdowns from Gavin Murphy and Ashton Aukor to answer, then hung on with its defense in the second half to claim a 14-13 win in the American Conference Grasshopper Super Bowl Tuesday night at Everett Recreation Center.

“This is a wonderful example of what they stand for both on and off the field,” Southside coach Trent Russell said. “I’m trying to build positive young men who can come out and be leaders in their community.”

In season finale National Conference Super Bowl that followed, the Maryville Titans rode a series of big plays from Eli Hames to upset the Maryville Lil’ Rebs, 19-6.

The win for the Titans not only avenged a 41-8 loss to the Lil’ Rebs during the regular season, it completed the only franchise sweep of championship games in Parks & Rec youth football this season.

The Maryville Bears won the American Conference Midget Super Bowl last Saturday at Maryville High’s Shields Stadium, with the Maryville Cubs following later in the afternoon as National Conference Pee Wee Super Bowl champions.

Rockford's Wesley Deck is pursued by Southside's Tanner Gourley.

Braiden Jones got Rockford fired up with a 40-yard run to the open the game, Owen Foister following soon after with the touchdown. Jones added the conversion run for a 7-0 lead for the Tigers at the 10-minute mark of the first quarter.

With time in the quarter growing thin, Murphy answered for Southside to tie things at 7-all.

Rockford’s Wesley Deck came back with a scorching, 55-yard touchdown run on the next possession, only to see the play nullified by a holding call. The Spartans wasted no time taking the lead when the defense returned the ball to the offense a few plays later.

Aukor punched through from a yard out with three minutes to play in the half, and, with Isaac Christenbery adding the conversion, Southside took a 14-7 lead into halftime.

The Tigers recovered a Spartan fumble on the first possession of the second half. Zachary Guzman put a second Rockford touchdown on the board soon after, but Southside held the line on the conversion for a 14-13 lead with a lot of football still to play.

The Spartans raise the championship hardware.

Tanner Gourley’s name was heard time and again over the public address from that point on – the whole game, actually. Whenever the Spartans needed a stop, he sliced into the Rockford backfield for the tackle.

The Tigers came calling with one last drive with less than two minutes remaining, reaching first-and-8 at the Southside 25-yard line. A Gourley stop made it second-and-8. Kristopher Kanwent then made it third-and-9 with a timely tackle. On fourth-and-15, it was Gourley again, his final tackle turning the ball over on downs with seconds to play.

National Conference

Maryville Titans 19, Maryville Lil’ Rebs 6 – The Lil’ Rebs scored so fast, a repeat of the regular-season rout looked likely.

Eli Hames makes the catch and speeds toward a Titan touchdown.

Time and again, Hames just wouldn’t let it happen.

“We did a lot of different things on defense,” Titans coach Allen Latham said. “We felt like we had a bunch of good players this year. My coaching staff helps me out a lot. It’s just a bunch of good guys.”

Cannon Johnson fights off the Titans' Austin Fielder.

Cannon Johnson gave the Lil’ Rebs a 6-0 lead on a 2-yard run at the 9:45 mark of the opening quarter. With the Lil’ Rebs looking to add a two-score lead on their next possession, Hames took the ball away from an opposing ball carrier at the line and raced 73 yards to even things at 6-6.

The brush with a big early deficit energized the Titans. Quarterback Landon Dockery found an open Hames in the Lil’ Rebs secondary with just under two minutes to play in the half, and Hames raced 54 yards for a 13-6 lead at the break.

The Lil' Rebs and Titans ready for the snap.

It looked as if things would end early when play resumed. After Noah Vaughn’s touchdown run for the Lil’ Rebs was nullified by a holding call, the Titans marched to first-and-goal at the 6, where a Hames fumble and Isaiah Sawyer recovery gave the Lil’ Rebs new life.

Hames returned the favor with a fumble recovery at the other end a few plays later. A Churchill Coates touchdown run put it away for the Titans at the eight-minute mark.

“Give them credit. They’re good team,” Lil’ Rebs coach David Hunt said. “We’ll reload and try again next year.”

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