Forget Rock Hill and Northwestern, the biggest football rivalry in Rock Hill might be in the Pee Wee league between the Green Dragons and the Falcons. The two undefeated division winners met in the championship game at Cherry Park, with the Falcons squeeking out an 18-6 victory.
The championship continued a dynasty for the Falcons, based out of Finley Road Elementary School, where most of the players attend. The victory was the sixth city championship for the Falcons since 2000, putting them with the likes of such dominating NFL teams as the Patriots, Steelers, and Packers.
Both the Falcons and the Green Dragons, made up of kids from Oakdale Elementary, entered the game with identical 9-0 records and each had won its respective division to meet in the big game.
The Pee Wee league is designed for children ages 9-10, and the championship game was the second game played on a chilly night at Cherry Park. The final regular season game of the Small Fry division for 7- and 8-year-olds saw the Falcons hang on to pull out a win over the Red Devils, 14-12.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
The Falcons jumped ahead early when Nigee Dickerson punched the ball into the end zone on a forth-and-goal on the game's first passion. The Green Dragons stopped the 2-point conversion attempt, but the 6-0 lead provided all the momentum the Falcons would need to win the crown.
The Green Dragons moved the ball down the field behind some hard-nosed running by utility player Zy'Quarvious Williams, a do-it-all player on offense, defense and special teams.
Williams had a spectacular run to set up a first-and-goal for the Dragons, but the play was negated by a penalty and the Falcons took advantage of the mistake, stopping Williams on a fourth down.
Chris Smith added the Dragons second touchdown of the game with just 18 seconds remaining in the half on a dazzling 15-yard run down the right sideline.
Despite being down a dozen points, the Green Dragons came out of halftime clicking on all cylinders.
Greg Ruff took the opening kickoff of the second half and bewildered the Falcons defenders en route to an astonishing touchdown run to bring the Green Dragons to within six.
In the end, however, the Dragons had no answer for the Falcons' powerful offense. Dickerson added his second touchdown of the evening with a 2-yard run to put the game out of reach and assure a Falcons victory.
The Dragons put Williams in at quarterback in a spread offense, but pressure from Falcons noseguard Shahee Moore would keep the offense from getting anything going.
It was one of those games in which both teams played hard, and it was a shame that someone had to come away with the loss. As Dragons coach Walter Sloan consoled his team after the game, he reminded them that they were division champions and had nothing to hang their heads about.
Falcons coach Thomas Richmond was thrilled with how the game panned out.
"We played with a ton of heart," said Richmond. "I could not be more satisfied with our team's effort. Wes Bostic and Austin Johnson anchored the offensive line, and our assistant coaches came up with a great game plan.
"It was an exciting game and the Dragons played very well and are well coached. Our kids worked hard every practice and every game throughout the season; winning the big one teaches the kids about working hard to reach your goal."