Last season was not so great for the Plant City Colts’ Mitey Mite and Pee Wee teams: they combined for seven wins and 13 losses, and the Mites only won one of those games. This year, those players came back with a mission to turn things around.
They almost couldn’t have been more successful — these two Colts teams are now a combined 17-1 heading into this weekend’s district championship series at Mike Sansone Park.
Coach George Ford’s Mitey Mites made the biggest leap forward in 2019, going from one win in 2018 to one loss this time around. Beyond last year’s players coming back and coaches Mike Knight, Marlon Walton and Keyonta and Jaquan Glover forming the rest of the coaching staff, Ford said the thing that made the biggest impact for the team was the dedication everyone involved with the program was willing to put in this year.
“It was dedication,” Ford said. “Parents buying into what we teach, the community being behind us to help us get it started again. The biggest difference on the field is that we’ve got a lot of coaches this year, volunteers from the community… we’re able to focus more on each individual kid and show them more.”
Of course, the on-field product’s pretty good, too. The Mites run the wing-T offense as well as anybody in the MidFlorida Youth Football & Cheerleading Conference, averaging 17 points per game. Their defense, which has a strong pass rush, put up four shutout wins and held two other opponents to seven points or fewer. Only once, in the Colts’ 21-6 loss to the Sarasota Hurricanes on Sept. 28, did they give up more than 13 points. Two-way player Dalshon Chatman, Ford said, has been “the difference-maker” on both sides of the ball. Chatman is the focal point of the offense as its lead back and also sets the edge well at defensive end.
“Toting the rock, setting the edge — whatever you ask him to do, he does it without asking one single question,” Ford said.
The Mites players learned more about how hard work and preparation pays off after taking the loss at Sarasota, which they followed up with a 12-7 home win over a tough Zephyrhills Bulldawgs team.
“When we saw Z-Pal, they gave us a stomping last year,” Ford said. “I know the Mitey Mites coach personally. He’s a perfectionist. When we beat them, I knew we had a good team. And it was a close game we played to the end… Z-Pal gave us notice that anybody’s gonna have a hard time with this team, the way they play together.”
The Colts will meet the Childs Park Rattlers again in Saturday’s playoff, and that’s already a good look for Plant City: the last time these two teams met, the Colts went to Childs Park and picked up an 18-0 win over the Rattlers.
Under head coach T.J. Miller’s watch this season, the Colts Pee Wees have been perfect.
Miller’s group had five players from 2018 come back, which he said has been huge for the team’s successes on the field, and this time Miller and coaches Richard Simmons, Kevin Sullivan and Fabian Walker decided to start offseason conditioning workouts earlier than usual. With such a small roster — this Colts squad tends to have 15 players on game days and many of them aren’t able to make it to every practice — the players have to play on both sides of the ball in every game, which means they have to be in great shape.
“It’s been a tough year for us,” Miller said. “We don’t get all of them here in practice. But on game time, they come out and give it their all. I’m proud of that even though practice goes like this sometimes. But on Saturday, I know what to expect.”
These guys know how to do more with less. Miller’s squad mixes things up on offense more than the Mites do and likes to run spread formations as much as they do a wing offense. The Pee Wees have kept games close more often than not, with five of their wins coming by one touchdown or less, but they’ve always been able to find ways to win games.
“They’ve got mental toughness,” Miller said. “They come to play on every play. That’s the main thing. They don’t take no plays off… we had a couple tough games… but they never quit on us. I’m thankful for that.”
Miller said the team as a whole has come together well on Saturdays and Damarquez Holloman, Ta’vare Miller, SirJonathan Davis and Addison Ford have been particularly important for the Colts this year.
The Pee Wees’ Saturday playoff game will come against a very familiar opponent: the Bulldawgs. Plant City hosted Zephyrhills on Oct. 5, the last game of the MidFlorida regular season, and grinded out an 8-6 win to finish with a perfect record and a first-round bye.
“We know it’s gonna be a tough game,” Miller said. “They just played their first playoff game Sunday, so they’re in playoff mode. We’re gonna run our offense and play 11 people to the ball on defense.”
The Mitey Mites start playing at 10 a.m. and the Pee Wees will start around 1:30 p.m., depending on how late the 11:30 a.m. Varsity game goes for.