It was a friendly game that still meant plenty to the players.
The Wesley Chapel Cowboys football program hosted the Friendship Bowl on Friday at the Wesley Chapel District Park, playing two exhibition games against the Panama Marlins, a football team from the Central America country.
It was the brainchild of Michael and Mark Mirrop, half brothers from Panama. Mark, who has coached at Wesley Chapel for about six years and lived in the states since he was 28, said the event was the first of its kind and most likely not the last.
"It was an excellent turnout," Mark said of the event that had hundreds in attendance. "We had rave reviews from both sides. It was just fun to see this all come together like we hoped. It all went real good.
"Next year, we'll go down there, and then they'll come back here again."
The Cowboys, both 8-9- and 10-11-year-old teams, lost both hard-fought games to Panama 13-0, as both teams held Marlins scoreless until the fourth quarter.
The Cowboys had practiced just a couple of weeks to get these games in, while the Marlins, which just wrapped up their season before coming here, were the best Panama had to offer.
Mark, however, feels the outcome might be different next time around.
"The kids had a great time and really hung in there," Mark said. "That's all right. We'll get them back next year."
Mike Camunas, Times staff writer