They may have celebrated a little too early, but the Cape Youth Football junior midget Tornadoes joined the midget Hurricanes as Peace River Conference Division 2 Champions Saturday with victories in their respective championship games at North Fort Myers Community Park, home of the North Fort Myers Knights.
The Tornadoes survived a scare and a last-second touchdown to defeat Clewiston 36-34 for the junior midget crown. The Hurricanes broke open a close game in the second half with the help of ZaQuandre White's three touchdowns to put away Immokalee 34-18 in the midget title game.
"ZaQuandre is just a special athlete. He brings it every play," Hurricanes coach Mike McBride said. "He runs with heart and plays with heart."
A case of premature celebration nearly cost the Tornadoes. With less than a minute to go, Cape's Luke Endsley's 47-yard TD run put his in a 36-28 lead after a failed extra-point.
Tornadoes, in celebration, dumped a water cooler on coach Mike Urraro, who wasn't pleased, since there still was time on the clock.
Enough time, it turned out, for Clewiston to drive 70 yards with Jamarian Green going up to grab an alley-oop pass in the end zone with seven seconds to play, cutting the lead to 36-34.
Needing as two-point conversion to tie it, Clewiston brought out kicker Quintavis Griffin, whose kick was wide left preserving Cape's win.
"The water was premature. Until there's all zeroes on the clock, Clewiston could come back at any time," Urraro said.
The Tornadoes (8-2) got off to a quick 16-0 lead on touchdowns by Jax Steffel and Cairo Juenegens and two two-point kicks by Endsley.
In fact, Clewiston (9-1) didn't get an offensive play until midway through the second quarter after Endsley and Wade Williamson recovered onside kicks and Clewiston's Dennis Johnson returned a punt for a touchdown.
The Tornadoes still seemed in control after Matthew Laker scored on a 50-yard TD pass to make it 24-8, but Clewiston stormed back on Johnson's TD run and a Green's scoring pass to make it 24-10 at halftime.
Jack Zullo and Williamson pounced on turnovers and Juenegens scored again to make it 30-20 before Green cut the lead to two with a touchdown with three minutes left, setting up the wild finish.
The Hurricanes started with White's 90-yard kickoff return for a score, but Immokalee (7-3) got fumble recoveries from Roberney Julien and Noel Marcano, which led to Immokalee tying the game on a seven-yard run.
The Hurricanes (10-0) regained the lead on Daniel Olson's 35-yard catch and run to make it 14-6 after Teagan Sabatello's PAT, but Immokalee cut the lead to two late in the first half on Abraham Alce's 15-yard TD run.
In the closing seconds of the half, Olson found White on a 65-yard scoring strike to give the Hurricanes a 20-12 halftime lead.
The Seminoles threatened twice in the third quarter inside the Cape 20, but were stopped on downs before the Hurricanes blew the game open with two scoring drives on scores by Garrett Cook and White making it 34-12.
"We hit them and hit them hard. That's all," White said.
Alce scored late for Immokalee.
"We came out in the second half and controlled the line of scrimmage. We created some holes and got us first downs and in the end zone," said McBride.
The Tornadoes play Jensen Beach in the Divisional Playoffs in North Fort Myers at 3 p.m. Saturday at 3 p.m. The Hurricanes play the Tacolcy Red Raiders at 5 p.m.
North Fort Myers Knights: On Saturday, the Knights pulled out championship wins in the junior pee wee and pee wee Division 2 Peace River Conference divisions.
North rallied from behind in the fourth and scored an unbelievable safety with one second remaining giving the junior pee wees an emotional 22-20 victory. The pee wee team stopped Charlotte inside the red zone, then scored on a long touchdown run with three minutes left for a 16-8 win on their home field.
"It was pretty amazing. We had the same score last year and lost," said junior pee wee coach Chris Reeves. "It's great to flip the score and bring home the championship for these kids."
After a quiet third quarter, the Knights took charge as Brock Noble ran in from a yard out to tie the game with less than six minutes left.
North (10-0) struck on defense on Harvey's interception with 21 seconds left.
Instead of running out the clock and going to overtime, Charlotte (9-1) tried a pass, but quarterback Branson Drakeford was sacked in the end zone by a trio of Knights defenders to earn an improbable victory.
The pee wee game was a defensive struggle, with North's Sammie Young scoring in the final minute of the first half for an 8-0 lead with Jonah Bourque's extra-point.
Charlotte tied the game on a six-yard run and PAT. North's defense later kept Charlotte out of the end zone, leading to Young's 65-yard off-tackle TD run to make it 16-8.
John Bitting's interception in the final minute sealed the win for the Red Knights.
"It was a physical game on both sides. We just came up on top. We're blessed with great kids," pee wee coach Kurt Donaldson said. "We came out flat after halftime and got our second wind and pulled it out in the end."
North Fort Myers hosts the divisional regional playoffs Saturday with the junior pee wees taking on the Tacolcy Red Raiders of Miami at 11 a.m., and the pee wees battling the Palmetto Bay Broncos at 1 p.m.