South Tahoe Pop Warner Jr. Pee Wees beat Sparks 22-19 in Snow Bowl for Div. 3 championship | TahoeDailyTribune.com

South Tahoe Pop Warner Jr. Pee Wees beat Sparks 22-19 in Snow Bowl for Div. 3 championship

Anthony Gentile
agentile@tahoedailytribune.com
South Tahoe Pop Warner Jr. Pee Wee football players celebrate after beating the Sparks Ducks for the Sagebrush Empire Div. 3 championship in the Snow Bowl on Saturday, Nov. 14, at Golden Eagle Regional Park.
Courtesy photo |

SPARKS, Nev. — After an uneven start to the season, thoughts of a championship seemed distant for the South Tahoe Pop Warner Jr. Pee Wee football team. But in the Snow Bowl on Saturday, Nov. 14, that’s exactly what the Vikings delivered.

South Tahoe beat the Sparks Ducks 22-19 in the Snow Bowl last Saturday at Golden Eagle Regional Park to win the Sagebrush Empire Div. 3 championship. The Vikings rallied for victory after a slow start, notching their sixth straight win in thrilling fashion.

“After everything this team has been through, to win the championship game on a last-second play just shows how special this Jr. Pee Wee team truly is,” Vikings coach Joel Gomez said.

The Jr. Pee Wees got off to a slow start against Sparks, and trailed 12-0 at halftime. Coach Joel Gomez’s speech during the break inspired the Vikings, as they rallied to take a 16-12 lead by the end of the third quarter.

In the fourth quarter, Sparks answered with a 65-yard drive to take a 19-16 lead with 1:15 to play. The Vikings had a slim chance at victory trailing late with no timeouts, but they took it.

Jace Kezer completed a 25-yard pass to Trenton Schouten that moved the ball to the 10 with 35 seconds left. After a spike and an incomplete pass, the Jr. Pee Wees faced third-and-goal with 20 seconds left.

South Tahoe lined up in the shotgun with two receivers split wide. Kezer rolled out to the right after the snap and found a wide open Joel Gomez Jr. — Gomez Jr. caught the ball and broke two tackles en route to the end zone for the game-winning score.

After starting the season 1-2, thoughts of a championship seemed distant for the South Tahoe Pop Warner Jr. Pee Wee football team. But before their fourth contest, the Vikings practiced like they wanted to win every game — and did exactly that.

The Jr. Pee Wees averaged 180 rushing yards per game and put up at least 30 points against every team they faced while rolling to six straight wins. Defensively during the streak, the Vikings allowed an average of 64 yards per game and shutout nearly all their opponents.

Before the playoffs started, the Vikings were invited to join teams from throughout the West to play in Santa Clara, California, at the Best of the West showcase over Thanksgiving weekend. With the Div. 3 title in hand, the Jr. Pee Wees will now play for a national championship in the Bay Area on Saturday, Nov. 29.