J.P. Rattlers are national champs
Published: Wednesday, December 12, 2012 at 2:20 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 12, 2012 at 2:20 p.m.
The first year of the Gainesville J.P. Rattlers Education and Youth Sports Organization ended with a bang as its Mighty Mite team won the American Youth Football League national championship and its fifth-grade team finished fourth, also at the AYFL national tournament.
The two teams made it to nationals, held Dec. 1-8 at Austin-Tindall Regional Park in Kissimmee, by winning the AYFL Southeast Regional tournament held Nov. 16-18 in Ocala, where the organization was named AYFL Southeast Region Program-of-the-Year.
The organization played its regular season in the Florida Youth Football & Cheer Conference against teams from Daytona Beach, Flagler County, Hastings, Jacksonville, Ocala, Ormond Beach, Palatka and Williston.
The national tournament featured teams from across the country, and nine games were played simultaneously early last week during a double-elimination format.
James Perry, founder and president of the organization, said the Rattler's first-grade team were Southeast Regional champions as well, but couldn't make it to nationals because of a lack of funding.
The Mighty Mite team, coached by Reggie Mosley, beat the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Greyhounds 26-0 last Thursday in the AYFL Mighty Mite championship game. The team also beat a team from Detroit 27-0 earlier last week to make it to the championship game. They finished the season 12-0 and only gave up 25 points the entire season on defense, while the offense averaged 33 points per game.
Mosley said the team of 30 second- and third-graders spent the week in Orlando completing homework assignments before being allowed to enjoy any play time. He said most of the players on the team played for the Gainesville Gladiators Tiny Mite team the past two years and only a couple of first-year players were on the team this year. He also said all of the players got a chance to play while in Orlando.
"We played every last one of them," Mosley said.
Mosley said seeing his players celebrate their championship is a memory he will always cherish.
"The best feeling I get is knowing that these kids were the first to accomplish something that has never been accomplished, something that has never been done in the city of Gainesville," he said. "So, they are kind of representing their city in a way that nobody else has ever done before. "To win the national championship means you beat teams from all over the nation, not just your state or region."
He said no money or awards can replace the feeling he had seeing his players smiling, chanting and "jumping around dumping water on each other, the coaches and their parents. It's a great feeling for them to be able to say they are the best."
Perry, who formed the organization in December 2011, said his team came in fourth place at nationals after losing to the Wilmington (Del.) Soldiers early in the tournament and the Oviedo (Fla.) Knights last Friday.
Perry said there were 26 players on his team in Orlando and they all had a good time. Perry said he is very thankful for all of the support the organization received from parents and the Alachua County FAMU Alumni Association, as well as Diane Hill, principal at Lake Forest Elementary School, and Donna Jones, principal at Duval Elementary Fine Arts Academy.
The team practiced at Lake Forest and played their games at Duval. The organization will hold spring practice from March through April.
Perry said he is very happy with the way things went this year.
"I'm very proud of what we did in our first season," he said. "We are blessed."
Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.