The North Tahoe Pop Warner Rams opened their 2012 season this weekend with the Pee Wees playing on Friday night against their rival Sparks Wolfpack and the Mitey Mites traveling back to Fallon to take on the Fernley Falcons on Saturday.
“Last year we traded wins with the Wolfpack, including a heartbreaking, season-ending loss, so the kids were very excited to open the season against these guys,” said Pee Wee head coach Scott Wilderman, also the Rams’ association president.
Unfortunately for North Tahoe Pee Wees, they came up short, 32-0.
“The score would have looked better in the mirror, but our kids had a great time,” Wilderman said. “The first game is always about finding out where you are and what work you have to do. The Wolfpack is always as well-prepared as anybody, and the score wasn’t really reflective of the quality of the game. We know what we need to do now and hope to see them again in the playoffs this year.”
Highlights included the Rams defense rising up after a shocking 20-0 deficit and only allowing two touchdowns the remaining three quarters. Keenan Collier bagged two interceptions, including one on an extra-point try. A fumble recovery by Kevin Perez put an end to another Wolfpack drive, and dominating play from Ben Ropers had the Wolfpack’s offensive line befuddled.
“All the kids played great and never let the score discourage them,” Wilderman said. “Ben showed everyone how a defensive tackle really can take over a game and that always inspires everyone to fight to the very end. He was such a common site in their backfield I started to wonder if he’d end up in their huddle before it was over.”
The Mitey Mites reversed the Rams’ weekend fortunes on Saturday afternoon with an impressive 13-0 win over the Falcons.
The excitement came early and again late with quarterback Dylan Cleary’s sweeps to the left and right that each went for 40-plus yards and touchdowns. Running back Riley Rau tacked on an extra point after the first TD and showed his bruising running style throughout the afternoon.
“I thought they had Cleary pinned in the backfield on that second one and when he started running backward and then got to the corner it turned into what we call the ‘No, no! ... Go, go!’ play,” said head coach Kurt Frankenberg.
On the other side, defensive end Alex Baker had the shocking experience of having a Fernley pass directed straight to him and almost came up with the interception, adding to his touchdown-saving tackle for a standout rookie performance. Irving Perez put an end to a Falcon drive with a fumble recovery in a repeat of his brother’s role from the night before.
“All but two of our kids are rookies, and they went through the process of absorbing the experience of their first game as well as we could have hoped,” Frankenberg said. “Sure, there were jitters and mistakes early, but they settled down and performed very well as a team. I’m proud of all our kids. They all played great.”
Defensive coordinator Tim Cleary added further perspective for the Rams.
“The Falcons may be new to Pop Warner, but they sure know football,” he said. “Their kids all played hard and that quarterback is somebody to be reckoned with. I’ve never seen an arm like that on a kid at this young age level, and he’s got feet too. He’s going to burn somebody with both before this season is over.”
Defensive tackle Mario Ponce disrupted several Falcon plays and free safety Drake Miller had an outstanding game covering the Falcons receivers.
“It’s great when you have the kind of talent we have,” Cleary said.
UP NEXT: Both Rams teams will host powerhouse Reno at Incline High School on Saturday, Sept. 15. The Pee Wees play at 11 a.m. and the Mitey Mites at 2 p.m. For more information about the Rams, go to www.northtahoepopwarner.com.