The 11U Panthers football team lost only one game this season, and it was to an Old Mill program that boasted a slew of Anne Arundel Youth Football Association championship teams across multiple age levels and divisions.
When the Panthers and Patriots met for a rematch in the American Division championship game at Severna Park on November 10, no one would have been surprised to see Old Mill produce another champion.
But Pasadena wrote its own script. The Panthers erupted for a 32-0 shutout of Old Mill to avenge their only regular-season loss, finish the year 9-1 and win the 11U American Division championship.
The American Division is the top AAYFA division, and the 11U Panthers are the Panthers’ first American champions in any age group since league realignment several years ago.
The team of Ronnie Day III, Isaak Hart, Connor McAndrew, Keller Herzberger, Colin Gilmore, Darius Williams, Xavier Borden, Leo Michalak, Connor Wright, Avaughn White, Peyton Jacobs, Jemere Branch, Sean Carroll, Jacob Cary, Robbie Hopper, Nathan Wheeler, Will Jacobs and Gordon Harris Jr. had several exciting moments on the way to winning the championship.
During the regular season the Panthers posted dominant shutout wins over South River, Generals Highway and GORC. They beat defending champion Severn 16-6 in Week 2 and edged out Crofton 16-6 and Andover 9-6. They lost 12-8 to Old Mill in the regular season in the game’s closing moments on a touchdown by the Patriots but rebounded to crush Cape St. Claire 32-6 in the final week of the season.
In the playoffs, the team posted consecutive shutouts, topping Andover 19-0 before defeating Old Mill in the championship.
The team moved on to the All-Pro state championship tournament but fell in the state semifinals to the Randallstown Panthers, 32-20.
Team mom Robin Herzberger said the team showed its resilience against difficult opponents and gelled together throughout the year.
“Severn was definitely a key victory since they were last year’s champs,” she said. “Andover [was a] tough, physical team with a lot to prove. Of course, the shining victory was avenging our only loss of the season against Old Mill in the championship and holding them scoreless.
“We added a some new players this year, and they fit in seamlessly with our team, some of which have been together since flag football. Our team played as one unit. The kids get along on and off the field. There are no gym class heroes and no dead weight. Everyone plays a vital role.”
The team was led by head coach Ryan Herzberger and assistant coaches Keith Williams, Andre White, Bucky Wheeler, Ryan Fagan and John McAndrew.
Coach Herzberger said he didn’t know if he expected a championship out of this group, but he said they’ve steadily progressed throughout their time playing together.
“I have been coaching this team for six years. Every year, we have gotten a little better,” he said. “I would be lying to you if I told you that I knew this was going to happen. This is the first Panthers team to win an American Conference championship since the restructuring of the league. It’s an honor and a privilege to be the head coach of this team. I’m beyond proud of these kids and our coaches, and I can’t wait to get back at it next season.”