A young team of Manchester Panthers have reached an elite status the Cleveland Browns have never achieved.
The Cleveland Browns have never achieved this level of elite status.
At least not since the Super Bowl was first introduced in the mid 1960s. As a matter of fact, they've never even made it to the big game, let alone won one. The Indians haven't won a World Series in 65 years and then only twice did they bring home the bacon in their more than 110 year existence. And the Cavaliers … well, maybe they do make it to the NBA finals occasionally, but that's usually about as far as they ever go.
Many sport teams are still fighting to reach their league's "Promised Land," but not Manchester's Panther Cubs.
They've already reached it.
Their slogan, "Manchester Football … One Town … One Team … One Tradition," says it all. These third- and fourth-grade kids who play for the little league Panthers and are members of the Buckeye Youth Football Conference, believe deeply in carrying on that tradition. Two years ago, they were undefeated and not scored upon as second-graders. There are no playoff games in their league at that age.
Now, for the second time in three years they have once again gone undefeated. This year, there was a playoff game. These 9- and 10-year-olds from Manchester are sitting smack dab on top of their football league.
They've won it all.
This year they're officially champions.
And they're undefeated.
Beside head coach Andy Summers, the coaching staff also consists of Jason Jividen as the offensive coordinator, Mike Krager as the defensive coordinator, and Duger Briggs, Kris Soles, Lou Yovanovich and Shawn Johnston as assistant coaches.
But these weren't the only ones who volunteered their time and talents to assure the success of these li'l Panthers. Volunteers such as team scout Mike Adkins and "Koach" Jim France took the time to speak to both the third- and fourth-graders as well as the fifth- and sixth-grade players before the second week of the playoffs. NFL Hall of Fame Inductee Dave Robinson also spoke to the third- and fourth-graders on a cold, wet, windy Thursday evening before the big game.
Others deserving gracious expressions of gratitude include Michele Mong, a Manchester Local Schools bus driver who generously donated her time to drive these champions to and from various fields on game day, Manchester Local Schools Superintendent Sam Reynolds, who allowed the rental of a school bus and and other kind folks who donated the fee to rent the school bus in order to give the team and cheerleaders a spirit-filled ride.
A big thank you also goes out to Kim Sherman and Barb Betz for their artistic bus decorations, cheerleading director Jen Paljich, Manchester Youth Football cheerleading coaches Kim Adkins and Tracey Kunselman along with cheerleaders who led crowds in the stands cheering with good, full spirited support in making sure these kids' championship efforts weren't ignored and field announcer Mickey Paljich.
Still other community spirit-minded individuals were Ed Klein and Jason Tirbovich of the New Franklin Police Department and Bill McKinney and Sgt. Chris Lappin of the Summit County Sheriff's Department for their many police escorts.
There was also support from the senior Manchester High School football players, most notably Johnny Beavers, Austin Klein, Jake Hanzel and Chandler Stahl. Other MHS players who knew first hand how much their support means, stood on the sidelines cheering the kids onward to victory.
A special thanks goes out to these and also to the Manchester McDonald's for donating a generous lunch for all C-team athletes, Mrs. Christi Pappas and the staff at Nolley Elementary School, the "Manchester Panther" for the day, Rachel Krager, all the teachers of Manchester Local Schools for their continued support of the kids throughout the year and also for their attendance at games on cold, wet, windy game days.
Finally, a special acknowledgement goes out to the entire Manchester Youth Football Board of Directors, coaches and athletes as well as all those in the community who got behind this championship team and for them and their community made it a phenomenal year.
"Tradition starts early, tradition continues, tradition doesn't graduate!" These are the words each child learns when he plays for a Manchester Panther team. For these young boys, these Panther Cubs, they've learned it well!
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