10U Little Panthers have successful season, despite championship game loss

BY COLTEN STEELE
WEEKLY REPORTER
The Panthers ran the ball hard against the JJK Jr. Flyers in the Superbowl game on Saturday, November 19. While they would ultimately lose 20-12, the Panthers had a very successful season and are looking to build on that success next year.  (O'Fallon Weekly Photo by Nick Miller)

The Panthers ran the ball hard against the JJK Jr. Flyers in the Superbowl game on Saturday, November 19. While they would ultimately lose 20-12, the Panthers had a very successful season and are looking to build on that success next year.
(O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Nick Miller)

O’FALLON – The 10U O’Fallon Little Panthers played in the Superbowl November 19 against the JJK Flyers. The Little Panthers put up a tough fight, but in the end lost 20-12.

The Panthers finished the season with a record of 8-3.

The Panthers started off the season slowly with a close loss against Edwardsville 26-22. O’Fallon, led by Coach Matt Baker, would then turn things around and win seven consecutive games.

When the playoffs began, the Panthers found themselves having to face Edwardsville again in the first round, but the tables turned in their second meeting. The Panthers went on to beat Edwardsville 42-24 with huge momentum heading into the Superbowl against JJK.

The Panthers were beat by the Flyers two weeks prior, 39-6. O’Fallon looked to regain their confidence in the Superbowl, and did.

“I was very proud of how the kids played. This was an opponent that beat us by a few scores a couple weeks ago,” said Coach Baker.

The Panthers battled back from being down 13-6 at halftime and would score late in the fourth quarter but the extra point attempt failed and the Panthers found themselves having to battle back again after the Flyers scored a game-sealing touchdown to make it 20-12.

“I felt the kids played great today. They left everything out on the field today against a great opponent. I know they were upset with the final score, but as a coach I am extremely proud of the effort they gave,” said Coach Baker.

The 10U Little Panthers have been in the championship four years straight, and Coach Baker said, “The kids challenge each other everyday in practice, and this makes them a good group to work with. It means a lot to them to compete in the toughest football league in the area every year.”

The 10U Little Panthers were led on offense this year by QB Kevin Jackson, running backs Jaeden Rush, Julian Dupree, and Jordan Suggs. The Panthers strong rushing attack benefited from great offensive line play by Colten Kelsey, Caden Dickey, Harold Johnson, Malachi Snowden, Carson Baker, Sam Fulton, Auggie Prange, and Sean Talashie.

The Panthers sparked a seven game winning streak during the season beating Troy, Belleville, Cahokia, Belleville, Mascoutah, Fairview Heights, Alton. Their winning record of 7-2 during the regular season took them to the playoffs again for a fourth straight year.

“The kids start August 1 with our first football practice. They have had over 40 practices, 11 games, and a few team-building activities over these 3 months. That is over 100 hours of sweat and hard work that these kids/coaches/families have put into football. It is a very demanding and rewarding sport,” said Coach Baker, commenting on the season.

What made Coach Baker so excited after the season was seeing the kids compete and want to become better saying, “I liked how the kids came together as a team and supported each other. They challenged each other in practice to get better, do their jobs, and work to pick up their teammates when needed. Watching this process take place is rewarding as a coach.”