Undefeated Midget Falcons earn No. 1 seed for Palomar Conference Playoffs

By Tim Pickwell

Torrey Pines Pop Warner linebacker Michael Gadinis wasn’t actually everywhere in the 4th quarter of a game on Oct. 6 — it just seemed like he was.

With playoff seeding and bragging rights to the 17-team Palomar Conference regular season title on the line, the Midget (7th & 8th Grade) Falcons (6-0 entering the game) faced arguably their toughest opponent, a 5-1 Rancho Bernardo squad that featured a stellar running back and a balanced defense.

But, in the 4th quarter of a game tied 16-16, Gadinis lit up. As the quarter started, the Broncos were driving — until Gadinis had a great wrap-up tackle on 3rd down to help stop a drive.

Two plays later, with the Falcons on offense, wide receiver Gadinis was trailing a teammate who fumbled the ball straight into the air. Gadinis grabbed the ball before it hit the ground, and ran forward for four more yards. After that drive stalled, the Falcon defense held their ground on 4th and inches, and the Torrey Pines offense took over with just four minutes to play.

After runs by Adam Eastwood and Ben McCaskill, the Falcons faced 4th & 3 yards to go on the Bronco 16 yard line with less than two minutes on the clock. Falcon play caller and coach Frank Montes showed confidence in QB Tyler Lytle, and called for a roll-out pass. Lytle connected with Tyler Alexander for 8 yards and a first down. Another run, a short pass to Eastwood, and it was third down with less than 54 seconds remaining.

Gadinis time. Lytle dropped back and threw a perfect fade into the left corner of the end zone. Gadinis ran under it and pulled it in for the game winner. A few seconds later, he kicked the point-after (his third PAT of the day). A key tackle, a fumble recovery, a TD and a PAT. That’s a career for some players, and a pretty fine 4th quarter for just one player.

While Gadinis was a human highlight reel, he wasn’t the only player with a heroic effort Saturday.

Interior Lineman Yu Jay Kurosu excelled at right guard on offense. In the 4th Quarter, while playing D-Tackle, “Y-K” busted up the middle on 4th & 15 to kill a Bronco drive. Linebacker Noah Rubin was strong up the middle, while Eastwood, McCaskill and Mo Mirer lead a strong ground game for the Falcons.

QB Tyler Lytle had another fine performance. Pop Warner emphasizes teamwork, and as an official policy, does not keep statistics. Informally, this observer had Lytle completing his first five passes, and going 10-14, for 131 yards and two TD’s and 71 percent completion rate for the day. He had clutch 3rd and 4th down completions to keep Falcon drives alive.

Statistics don’t measure everything, however. The performance of running back Jack Lewis, working hard for every yard in the second quarter before leaving the game after a late hit penalty, didn’t register much on the stat sheet. But, when the entire team goes four-deep at every position in the heart department and plays as hard as Lewis,you know you have something special.

“I have never enjoyed coaching more than this year,” said Lytle, who has coached youth football for 12 years—11 as a head coach. “This is collectively the best group of young men I have ever coached. They play unselfishly, and with determination.”

Lytle tells the players to “play each game as if it is our last, and enjoy the opportunity to play another week.” The goal is the League Championship, but the boys are taught, “one step at a time. Focus on the game of the week, and nothing beyond.”

For now, the focus will be on the first round of the playoffs. There are 17 teams in the Palomar Conference, which is further subdivided into the Avocado League and the Vineyard League. Torrey Pines is the No. 1 seed in the Avocado, and will face No. 4 San Marcos on Saturday, October 13, 2012. If the Falcons win, they will play the winner of Oceanside v. Escondido. The Avocado Champion will face the winner of the Vineyard League for the Palomar Conference Title.