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Seminole Chiefs Varsity Mighty Mites
In the world of football, a championship is not won by a coach, a quarterback, or any individual player, no matter how talented. Rather, it is won by a team: a blend of players and coaches all possessing diverse talents and performing distinct roles, yet focusing on a single vision.
For this month’s Joto’s Top Team, Seminole Youth Athletic Association’s Varsity Mighty Mite Chiefs, that vision was to win the Suncoast Youth Football Conference Championship for the first time in 13 years. “From the very beginning, the team set their goal high of winning the championship,” says team mom Debbie Jackson-Majko. “Determination, dedication, and hard work put them there.”
At the end of the regular season, the 4th ranked Chiefs had an impressive record of 7 wins, 3 losses, and 1 tie. They won the first 2 playoff games to earn a spot in the championship game vs. Northeast on November 19, 2011. Northeast took an early 7-0 lead, but it did not last long. Using a trick play, James Lee ran the ball 60 yards, putting the Chiefs in position to score on the next play. Later, Toree Goins recovered a fumble and ran 75 yards for a touchdown. A big catch by Lawrence Toafila put the Chiefs on the 3 yard line, setting them up to score another touchdown and increase their lead to 19-7. Through outstanding defensive plays by Ethan Blanchard, Jake Annand, James Lee, and the rest of the team, the Chiefs maintained their lead to become the 2011 conference champions.
“What an accomplishment that he can look back on in the future and remember with pride!” says teacher Angel Connell of James Dwayne Ingram, a player described as “passionate.” “It was an exciting year!” exclaims teammate Jake Annand. “It took a lot of hard work and a total team effort to win the championship!” Nearly every day for four months, this team of 23 boys and 5 coaches worked together, each one playing his role to the best of his ability for the good of the team. As quarterback CJ Catia explains it, “Everybody did their jobs.”
They did their jobs outstandingly! The defense – led by Jake Annand, James Lee, Ethan Blanchard, Mark Jackson, Demetrius Dalton, and Sanchez Maultsby – had 8 shutouts in the season and held their opponents to an average of 3 points per game. The defense also enjoyed excellent field position, thanks to special teams player Kobe Hepburn’s outstanding kickoffs. The Chiefs’ offense was a team effort, too, combining CJ Catia’s quarterback skills with the blocking, rushing, and receiving talents of his teammates. Offensive leaders included Isaac Gibbs, Toree Goins, Lawrence Toafila, and Jamar Johnson.
Another team leader was Jayion McCluster, who “stepped up in a big way when the team needed him to,” says Sherrie McCarthy, an SYAA Main Board Member who did not have any children playing football this season but recommended the Chiefs to be Joto’s Top Team because she “was so very proud of what they accomplished!”
Just as each athlete had a vital role in the team’s success, each coach also contributed to the team in a unique way. “This was truly a team effort from the players to the coache,” notes Debbie Jackson-Majko. The Chiefs’ all-volunteer coaching staff was led by Head Coach Eric Blanchard (father of Ethan Blanchard). Assistant coaches included Cato Catia, James Ingram, and Sanchez Maultsby (fathers of CJ Catia; James Dwayne Ingram, Jr.; Sanchez Maultsby, Jr.; and Steven Cobb) as well as Keith Lyle, the starting safety for the 1999 Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams.
Through the combined efforts of players and coaches alike, the Chiefs had a fantastic season. “The boys’ hard work and dedication paid off,” says parent Jana Whitten. “I’m proud to be a Chief,” declares Coach Lyle. Coach Blanchard agrees: “[The players] worked hard every practice and did whatever we asked of them. We had an outstanding group of kids.”
Nominate Your Top Team
If you wish to nominate a “Top Team of the Month” please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or simply drop off your nomination at your local Joto’s Pizzeria.