Entering the playoffs as the No. 5-seed with a 5-4 overall record, the 11U Bucs football team was by no means the favorite to win the Anne Arundel Youth Football Association 11U Central championship.
That didn’t matter to the Bucs. Pasadena clicked at the right time, reeled off three straight victories, and ended up hoisting the championship trophy and smiling for photos at Glen Burnie High School on November 11.
“I was very proud of these guys for the effort they put on the field,” said head coach Dave Fish of the 11U Buccaneers. “Winning this championship is a direct result of their hard work and dedication.”
The team of Scott Anderson, Kaden Bergman, Brenner Bookhammer, Dylan Fish, Caleb Gandy, Trent Gillis, JT Hagood, Gabe Lynch, PJ Mason, Zach McConville, Jordan Miller, Danny Mitchell, Ethan Mitchell, Ayden Perez, Paul Plaugher, Dominic Ransom, Joe Slattery, Layne Shiflett, Rodney Sterry, Nathan Wiest, Paul Williams, Ryan Williams and Josmell Zapata started the season inauspiciously, with multiple factors working against them. The Bucs were a newly formed team with group of coaches who had never coached together, several players coming over from the Harundale Rebels, about 10 players who had been playing up an age group within the Bucs and 12 first-year football players.
“It took us like four weeks to make this team an actual team instead of just a group of kids wearing the jerseys,” said Bucs football director Kenny Browning, who served as the 11U team’s offensive coordinator. “Finally it clicked, and they got it together.”
Seeds of belief were planted in week eight of the regular season, when the Bucs defeated the Harundale Rebels, who they had lost to in the season’s opening game.
Come playoff time, the Bucs needed to avenge three regular-season losses to go all the way. No. 5-seed Pasadena opened the eight-team bracket against No. 4-seed South Bowie, which they had lost to in the regular season by an extra point in a Wednesday-night makeup game. They shut out South Bowie, 13-0, to advance to the semifinals.
Next up was undefeated No. 1-seed Upper Queen Anne’s, which had rampaged through the season and defeated almost everyone by multiple scores. The Bucs had lost to UQA in double overtime back in the season’s third week.
Browning said facing the undefeated favorites in the semifinals brought the Bucs’ confidence to new heights.
“They know it’s a game they probably aren’t supposed to win,” said Browning. “But they buy in to everything you’re telling them in practice, you tell them that ‘No is not an answer,’ and then they see it on the field, and you get to halftime and you’ve got the lead, and they believe, they’re like, ‘We might actually be able to do this.’”
The Bucs did it. Pasadena dominated possession, holding the ball for 31 of the game’s 40 minutes, to oust Upper Queen Anne’s with a 20-12 victory.
In the championship game at Glen Burnie on November 11, the Bucs squared off with the No. 2-seed Severna Park Green Hornets, who had beaten Pasadena by one score in week four.
The Bucs put it on Severna Park to win the title, 33-12.
Pasadena finished 8-4 overall as 11U AAYFA Central champs.
“We just kept telling the kids, ‘5-seeds aren’t supposed to go to championship games,’” said Browning. “We just got hot. Bringing that cohesiveness, that’s really the biggest thing. It was a collective, group effort, the kids buying into what we were doing, the coaches putting in the work, the cold, rainy days, kids showing up to practice and just fighting through.”
Fish and Browning coached the Bucs with defensive coordinator Sheldon Pindell and assistant coaches John Hagood, Troy Shiflett and Brandon Matter.
Fish said the championship was well earned, and the Bucs are poised for continued success.
“This group of young men worked hard, fought through adversity and learned to play together as a team,” he said. “It was very exciting to watch them grow and improve together. You could see things coming together more and more, week after week. It is going to be fun to watch this team continue to flourish over the next two seasons.”