They say it’s lonely at the top, but that’s not the case for the Plant City Dolphins.
Four teams — Mighty Mites, Pee Wees, Midgets and Junior Varsity — finished the 2019 Tri-County Youth Football and Cheerleading Conference regular season with perfect 10-0 records, then went on to win their playoff quarterfinal games last week. It was an especially notable year for the Midgets, who have now won 40 consecutive league play games (dating back to Oct. 22, 2016) and are in the hunt for their fourth Superbowl title in as many years.
All four teams need one more win on Saturday at the Brandon Cowboys’ field to get to the Superbowl championship games, which will all be played Nov. 16 in Plant City.
The Dolphins organization as a whole finished with a 47-3 record in TCYFCC’s regular season and four divisional championships. The Varsity team, which was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, still had a season to be proud of with a 7-3 record coming just one year after it finished with an 0-10 record.
Coaches from each team spoke with the Plant City Observer about their teams in advance of Saturday’s semifinal games.
Coach Bryan Childs
“I’m gonna be honest. This is probably the most balanced team that I’ve had. I don’t really see a weakness. I have kids that don’t put themselves before the rest of the team. Everybody works together and that’s really what makes us what we are.
We didn’t have a game in Week 1, but when I saw all the kids in practice — and I’m a very hard person to please, a very hard coach — I saw those first two weeks went by and no one wanted to quit. When they showed me that, that showed me that I have a special group of kids. They’ve done nothing but push my expectations. It went from ‘Man, we’re gonna have a good season’ to ‘I think we’re gonna be able to go all the way.’
There are some kids I mentor, I get them on the weekends, and I love seeing them have fun. It is sports, but they’re also learning other things. They’re learning school. They’re learning teamwork. They’re learning other things. To see them have a great time is what really means a lot to me.”
Last week: d. Southwest Junior Saints, 40-0
This week: vs. Brandon Cowboys
Coach Armand Cotnoir
“We’re very physical. Physical and our offensive line is strong. We hit, we tackle a lot and do a lot of tackling practice. We work on that every night.
I knew we were really good from the beginning. But having 16 teams, and there’s so many new teams, that every week you didn’t know. Even this week: we play the Eagles, we haven’t played them and they’ve only lost one game. We don’t know how this week’s gonna go. Our coaching staff helps the kids stay focused. We have a routine and we stay with it no matter if we win 50-0 the week before or whatever the score is. We practice just as hard in every practice.
On offense, they block well and they’re very disciplined. They understand their blocking assignments and our running backs are very good at being physical, running inside the tackles. They’re pretty good at hitting whatever hole we tell them to and they go wherever we tell them to go.”
Last week: d. Turkey Creek Trojans, 37-6
This week: vs. Lakeland Eagles
Coach Robbie Jordan
“It’s pretty intense. John Broome and Marcus Springfield, who coach our JV now, they started it. They won the Superbowl in 2016 and ran the tables again in 2017. I took over as offensive coordinator last year with Broome in 2018 and we ran the table again. Here we are again.
We’ve got an older team. These kids are dialed in. I think we have a reputation around the area for our 10U program. I’ve always had more of a power running kind of team, but we’ve been able to throw the ball a lot more this year. Our offensive line, the pass blocking this year is outstanding. These kids have done a really good job this year. We’re getting the kids to buy into the passing game. Plus, I’ve got about seven or eight kids who can run the ball and we’ve gotten to a point where we pretty much have exclusive starters on offense and on defense, which is pretty rare for little league. Our defense is really fast, athletic and experienced. All 11 starters are 10 years old. We’ve only given up two touchdowns the entire season.
We played a front-loaded schedule. We played our biggest competition early in the season and I think that after game four or five, there was nobody left in the regular season that was really gonna be able to hang with us. Once you get to the second round of the playoffs and the Superbowl, you’ve always got to watch out. I’ve been knocked out in the first round before so I know you can’t really take anybody lightly. I knew at the beginning of the season we’d have a special team, but it’s hard to predict 13-0.”
Last week: d. Seffner Seahawks, 32-0
This week: vs. New Tampa Wildcats
Coach John Broome
“This team works really good together. They’ve been together the last three or four years, so they’ve grown together. And they always compete. This is a good group of boys.
They’re tackling real well right now. They’re blocking real well. They have the eye of the tiger. They seem like they’re very motivated and they seem like they really want it this year. This team didn’t win it last year, so they’re itching to get back at it. It’s a standard. Anytime you’re with the Dolphins, you know it’s a standard. Especially when I’m on the staff. It’s a high energy that I bring to the team, everybody buys in, everybody competes at high level, everybody gives 110 percent. That’s a good thing.
Sometimes you have the stars and then you have, like, a big drop-off. It’s the stars, then it trickles down. There’s no huge drop because everybody’s trying, everybody’s competing. That’s how you build a good team.”
Last week: d. North Lakeland Legends, 40-0
This week: vs. Seffner Seahawks