On Saturday an article previewed this week’s upcoming slate for three Port Charlotte Bandit teams. The Bandits Mitey Mite team played two games on Saturday, winning their first game 34-0 against representatives from Texas, the San Antonio Wolverines. The second game ended with a 14-0 loss for the Bandits in their final game of an outstanding season.
The Bandits Pee Wee Cheerleading squad will take the mat Tuesday at 3:36 p.m. at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports. The cheerleaders placed fourth at the Southeast Region Cheer and Dance Championships in their division on Nov. 23-25. That led to the girls qualifying for a chance to be crowned National Champions as well.
The Bandits JV division, which consists of 11 and 12-year-olds, will play the first of two bowl games Monday at noon before taking the field on Thursday at 1 p.m. as they fight to be Pop Warner National Champions in their division.
The goal since the beginning of the year was to get to this point, according to the coaches for the JV team. Along the way, the team has played against five teams from a division in which the talent level was perceived to be greater than that of the Bandits. That didn’t stop them from beating those five teams and every team they have faced this season.
After an undefeated regular season, the Bandits have now won three straight playoff games by a combined score of 99-24, after a 35-12 victory over the Gainesville Gators in last weekend’s regional final.
That has all led to a chance to prove they are the best JV team in the country, in their respected division. The chance awarded to them has the Bandits playing at the renowned Wide World of Sports Complex to compete against some of the toughest competition from other parts of the country.
If the Bandits do win both games, first against the Marsh Creek Eagles from Lionville, Pennsylvania and then the Bennett’s Creek Warriors out of Suffolk Virginia, they will be crowned champions of the 62nd Pop Warner Super Bowl.
Last Week against the Gators, the Bandits fell behind early on a touchdown from the Gators running back. Head coach Dustin Baca said the Gators running back was the best the Bandits have faced this season.
Baca believes people viewed the Bandits as underdogs in the game, but said his team took it to heart after the early touchdown run from the Gators and fought for the victory.
“The biggest challenge is going to be to try to keep them focused on the football games,” said Baca. “Instead of on all the craziness that is going to happen this week.”
Wednesday night will see Animal Kingdom in Disney open for just the teams and cheer squads of the Pop Warner league, after a practice session leading into Thursday’s game.
Baca believes that besides the talent on the team, his assistant coaches are a big reason why the Bandits have this opportunity.
The assistant coaches for the Bandits include Bo Balcomb, Jack Donlan, Bobby Douglas, Daryl Haynes and Dominick Pipitone.
Collectively they have over 100 years of coaching experience, most of them coaching for at least 20 years, some all for the Bandits, others have coached with the Charlotte Warriors before being a part of this special run.
It isn’t lost on the players or the coaches on what it means to be a part of such a special run, or how demanding it is to be able to make it this far.
“It’s hard to get here,” said Baca when asked what he’ll tell his team before their game. “A lot of kids go through their whole childhood without making it, some playing from the age of 5 till 14. Part of it is luck, and they’re some of the lucky ones.”