Junior varsity Vikings claim Peanut Bowl championship

Tom Tigani
– Southgate Star

While Detroit area professional and college football teams probably have gotten most of local fans’ attention despite their limited success, Southgaters can take pride in what their younger teams have achieved in the 2019 season.

The Southgate Junior Football Association’s freshman, junior varsity and varsity teams all made it to the postseason this year in Downriver Junior Football League play. The JV team fared best, capturing the championship in the Peanut Bowl, while the varsity made it to the playoffs. The freshman Vikings lost their Peanut Bowl contest.

The JV Vikings beat the Dearborn Heights Raiders 12-0 in the title game after defeating the Ypsilanti-based Lincoln Railsplitters 26-20 in the playoffs, which SJFA President Jeffrey Webb said was impressive considering the Vikings had lost to both teams in the regular season.

“(The JV Vikings) were just a more physical team (than Lincoln)” Webb said. “They put it all together at the right time, and they got better throughout the season.”

It was a grind-it-out kind of game without star performances, he said, noting that “there were no big plays, just more of a team effort,”

The Carleton-based No. 1 seed Huron River Yellow Jackets took care of the freshmen Vikes 6-0 in dramatic fashion in their Peanut Bowl, with the only score coming on one long play with 1:14 to go in the game.

“Quarterback run to the outside,” Webb said. “They just kept running the same play over and over again. It was an off-tackle run, and we just couldn’t stop it. Their running back also had a great game.”

He believes the weather may have been a factor.

“It was a cold day,” Webb said, “and they’re 8 to 9 years old and not used to it yet.”

The varsity Vikings lost 31-27 to the Melvindale Cardinals in the playoffs, despite shutting out the Cards 20-0 in the regular season.

Even though only one SJFA team finished on top, Webb said it’s been a great fall because all three teams made the playoffs and two made it to the title game.

“I’ve never had that;” Webb said. “I’ve been in the organization eight years and never seen all three teams make it at one time.”

He credits a focus on building a family atmosphere with the program’s success.

“We care about all the kids,” Webb said. “People get in it for all the right reasons instead of pushing their agenda and their kids.

“A lot of our coaches don’t even have kids. There’s no agenda, just how the kids can get better and how the organization can improve.

“We’re trying to get the kids to succeed not just in our program, but in middle school and high school too.

Webb says the SJFA is a more community-focused organization these days, and held practices at Southgate Anderson High School this year with the idea that some SJFA players may go on to one day join that team. A season highlight was a picnic with Vikings players and cheerleaders and high school players and cheerleaders.

Speaking of cheerleaders, the varsity and freshman cheer squads finished first in the league, and the JV girls finished second. (See related story.)

“With the teams’ success and the success we had at the cheer competition, altogether it was a very special season.”

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