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Local Sports

Youth football: Joliet Ravens Mighty Mites capture national title

JOLIET – Jesse Palomar is president of the Joliet Ravens Youth Football & Cheer organization.

He also coached the 8- and 9- year-old Ravens Mighty Mites to the United Youth Football national championship in December at Tampa, Fla.

As a result, the Ravens were recognized at a recent Joliet City Council meeting, and they have memories that will last a lifetime.

“It was like a movie. I couldn’t think of a better scenario than us having a chance to beat them for the national championship,” Palomar said of the Mighty Mites taking down Tri-City from St. Charles, Illinois, 6-0, in the title game.

The Ravens had beaten Tri-City, 13-6, during the regular season but lost to their rival, 14-13, in the state championship game (both participants in the state final received an invitation to the national tournament).

“At our age football, you get two points for kicking an extra point,” Palomar said. “We were ahead, 13-12, in the fourth quarter. I couldn’t believe it when they had a 9-year-old come out and kick the field goal, and he made it, so they beat us, 14-13. That was heartbreaking for the kids. And it was terrific for us that we got to play them for the national championship.”

The Ravens won a double-overtime decision over a team from Buffalo, New York, and beat at hometown Tampa team to reach the title game.

“The kids were ecstatic when they won it,” Palomar said. “The whole tournament was like that.”

Palomar said he had 20 players on the Mighty Mite roster. They included quarterbacks Dylan Pangrazio and Anthony Howell-Simms, who threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Pangrazio on a fourth-and-goal from the 13-yard line to help win a game at the nationals.

Pangrazio and Howell-Simms are among the Ravens who have been invited to participate in the Diamond Sports Group Fourth-Grade All-Star Game that is scheduled May 26-29 at Virginia Beach, Virginia. Others are Tre Malone, Billy Mutz, Keshawn Wiley, Manny Palomar, Aiden Robinson and John Sherrod.

“We have 160 kids in the entire organization, 200 including cheerleaders,” Palomar said. “We started practicing Aug. 1 and went to right before Halloween. Then the nationals were the first full week of December.”


Another local 9-year-old has been invited to participate in the same All-Star game in Virginia Beach.

Thomas “TJ” Jones, a fourth-grader at Farragut School in Joliet, helped lead the Joliet Steelers Mighty Mites to an 8-1 regular-season. The Steelers lost in the opening round of the playoffs.

Jones scored 24 touchdowns and rushed for more than 900 yards this season. Defensively from his outside linebacker position, he had more than 60 tackles, six sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception.

All of that, along with impressive game film, earned Jones an invitation to the All-American Game that was played Dec. 31 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. He played for the winning Red team, largely on the defensive side of the ball, and had five tackles and a sack.

Jones not only plays football, he wrestles for the Will County Warriors and is a three-time IKWF state qualifier. He placed eighth in a national tournament in Wisconsin.

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