One could make the argument, especially now, that Eddie Gerrits' youth football team may be the best the Crystal River Sharks program has ever seen. In 10 games, including playoffs last week, the Pee Wee Sharks are undefeated, untied and unmatched.
Granted, other teams have made it this far, but none with this kind of production. In the 10 wins, the Pee Wees have given up a grand total of four touchdowns, two of those coming against playoff opponents over the last week.
Now, after dispatching Lake Butler 22-6 in the Timucua Conference championship game, the Sharks are on the verge of doing what no other Sharks team has ever done in Timucua Conference play: make it to the second round of Pop Warner Southeast Regional competition.
One more win will do it, though at this point the Sharks don't know exactly who they are going to play. It may be Jacksonville Beach, or maybe Orange Park. Whatever the case, the opponent will be facing a team that is as well-prepared and well-stocked as any the league has produced.
No doubt Gerrits troops enjoyed their hard-earned day off Monday. In the past eight days, the 9-, 10-, 11- and 12-year-olds have played three games, starting last Saturday with a spanking of Belleview, moving on to a 37-6 defeat of previously unbeaten Dixie County, then wrapping up with Saturday's championship win.
Saturday's was the biggest challenge to date as Lake Butler presented the Sharks with size and speed and kept the game close through the better part of four quarters.
E.J. Gerrits, Chianta Smith and Arlando Madison were the difference for the Sharks. Gerrits led the Sharks on three scoring drives, capping the first with a 1-yard sneak, then passing for touchdowns (65 yards to Alan Rooks and 35 yards to Greg Kish) on the other two. Rooks added a PAT kick (worth two points), Kish found Gerrits on a fake PAT kick, and Justin Duncan added a PAT run to complete the scoring.
As is usually the case, the Sharks were led up front by a determined and tough offensive line and a tenacious and relentless defensive front. Tim Nosella, Brett Miller and Tyler Lemieux led the offensive line while Chad Wilcox, Jesse Chancey and Lance Ives made life miserable for the Lake Butler offense.
Two other Sharks teams also were in action Saturday after winning South Division titles on Wednesday. However, both met with disappointing results.
The Jr. Pee Wee team, after losing 28-0 to Gainesville earlier in the season, played the Gators tough in their championship game but were stifled by one big play. Leading 7-6 after Chris Koontz' 45-yard touchdown run and PAT run, the Sharks had the Gators facing fourth down at the Sharks 30 with just seconds left in the first half, but gave up a 30-yard run that proved to be the difference.
"I'm really proud of the kids," coach Randy Owens said. "We really took it to them this time."
The Junior Midgets, after holding off Marion County on Wednesday, ran into a buzzsaw in the Gators and ended their season on a 28-0 loss. Crystal River held close at the half, trailing 8-0, but gave up an early score in the third quarter and was never able to recover.