When the Severna Park Varsity U (14U) football team entered the Anne Arundel Youth Football Association National division playoffs with a record of 2-5-1, a county championship was possible, though far from a safe bet.
But the Green Hornets possessed confidence: all their games throughout the season had been close, and three of their four losses were by a one-score margin. Severna Park knew it had the ability to beat any opponent in its way.
The Green Hornets didn’t merely justify their confidence — they went a step further. Severna Park reeled off three straight county playoff victories, including a 30-12 rout of Old Mill in the final, to win the AAYFA championship, then went on to claim a state title by defeating the Hereford Bulls, 30-0, in the All-Pro Youth Football State Championship game.
Severna Park’s players, who will enter high school football next season, finished out their youth careers on a four-game win streak, freshly minted as county and state champs.
“I could not be more proud of a group of young men than I am of this group,” said Green Hornets 14U head coach Jason Shipman. “It was a perfect way to end their youth football careers.”
The team of Rudy King, Jake Nesbitt, John Choi, Evan Stroble, Lex Hayes, Ben Hayes, Jackson Elms, Ron Ron Manning, Daniel Eckroad, Caden Brunatti, Talan Livingston, Max DeMella, Kevin Bredeck, Jack Gunther, Bobby Howe, Nick Sotiropoulos-Lawrence, Seamus Patenaude, Ashby Shepherd, Daniel Stack, Dave Fitzgerald, Joshua Hong, Tyler Woodward, Kellen Curtis, Dillon Torggler, John McCone, Jason Shipman and Brett Boeskin didn’t have the most successful regular season by won-loss standards, notching wins only over the Pasadena Chargers and Crofton Cardinals, and tying the Pasadena Bucs.
In the final week of the regular season, the team lost a close matchup to the Panthers, 14-8, solidifying their seeding and ensuring a first-round playoff rematch with the Panthers.
That’s when Severna Park took off. The Green Hornets rebounded to oust the Panthers in the first round of the playoffs, defeating Pasadena convincingly, 24-6.
In the AAYFA semifinals, the Green Hornets squared off with the General’s Highway Tigers, who they had lost to 19-16 in the regular season when the Tigers had methodically gained yards inside the red zone to score a late winning touchdown. This time, Severna Park’s defense shined and shut out the Tigers, 14-0.
A highlight came when the Tigers, trailing 8-0 at the time, progressed deep into Severna Park territory, but the Green Hornet defense held strong. When the Tigers had third-and-goal on the one-foot line, Woodward blitzed through the line of scrimmage and made a critical tackle, spearing the Tiger ball-carrier for a 2-yard loss. Despite having trouble with the Tigers’ team speed in the regular-season loss, the Hornets made a fourth-down stop by preventing a Tiger runner from getting space on the outside, smothering him for an 8-yard loss and a turnover on downs.
“It was just a key moment not only in our season but in these players’ careers,” said coach Shipman. “They were able to learn and grow from their past experiences and make the play when it mattered most. “[It was] one of the best defensive stands I have witnessed.”
Once into the final against Old Mill, the Hornets’ momentum couldn’t be stopped. Having suffered their worst loss of the regular season to the Patriots in a 14-0 defeat, Severna Park exploded in the championship for a 30-12 rout.
Already leading 16-6 in the second quarter against the Patriots, Torggler, a team captain, intercepted a pass with a minute left before halftime, and the Hornets perfectly executed a two-minute drill to take a 24-6 lead into halftime. Patenaude, the quarterback, connected on passes to Bredeck and Brunatti, and Sotiropoulos-Lawrence gained yards on a run, setting up a 40-yard touchdown pass from Patenaude to Torggler.
“I think the touchdown right before halftime really gave the players a lot of confidence and allowed our team to come out to start the second half playing really inspired football,” said Shipman. “They really wanted to win this game, and it showed in their level of intensity and how they played from start to finish.”
Newly crowned county champions, the Green Hornets turned around and pummeled Hereford 30-0 in the All-Pro Youth Football State Championship final two weeks later to add a state title to the season.
The team finished 6-5-1 and was coached by Jason Shipman, defensive coordinator Ed Brunatti and assistant coaches RJ Weddle, Dave Fitzgerald, Rob Shepherd, Brian Golson and Paul Hayes. The team mom is Heather Woodward.
In four postseason wins the team averaged 22 points per game and allowed an average of only 6 points per game. Boeskin, Gunther, Manning, Sotiropoulos-Lawrence and Patenaude each had rushing touchdowns in the playoff run. Stroble and Sotiropoulos-Lawrence each had a receiving touchdown, while Torggler had two receiving touchdowns and Patenaude threw four touchdown passes.
The kicking unit also played a crucial role in the team’s success during the season and playoffs. At the 14U level, kicks after touchdowns are worth two points instead of the traditional one, so the kicking unit of Sotiropoulos-Lawrence (kicker), Shepherd (long snapper) and Bredeck (holder) gave Sevena Park an all-important x-factor weapon over opponents.
Woodward, Bredeck, Stack, Gunther and Shepherd have been the consistent core of the team since they began playing Green Hornets football seven years ago as 70-pounders.
Coach Shipman said a key for the players was keeping their confidence despite close losses during the season.
“I am extremely proud of this group of players because they never got down on themselves during the regular season,” Shipman said. “We as coaches were really tough on them throughout the year, and I think it ultimately paid off in the end. The players never let the close losses affect how hard they worked. They just kept showing up and allowing themselves to be coached. Our coaching staff knew how good of a team we had, we just had to get the players to believe it. Once they did, we started to click at the right time of the year, and our ‘road to redemption’ took off from there.
“To come back and beat three teams in the playoffs that we lost to during the regular season is a credit to our players and their work ethic. I could not be more proud of a group of young men than I am of this group. To finish out their youth football careers this way is an awesome achievement, and I am going to miss coaching these young men.”