Pembroke Pines, FL– The nation has several top rated programs from coast to coast and the Pembroke Pines Optimist Bengals, better known as PPO, have to be considered one of the best. They will be ranked second behind the Inland Empire Ducks out of Southern California when Football Hotbed releases their first age based national team rankings later this month. They kept their strong pre-season going this past Tuesday when they took on the Miami Gardens (Scott Lake) Vikings in a full-game pre-season scrimmage. They beat the Vikings, defending 11u Champions of the Florida Youth Football League by a score of 16-6.
The first half was the scoreless defensive battle but in the third quarter, PPO jumped out behind the strong running game featuring 2021 stand out athletes Robert Floyd, Jr. and Ja’Den McBurrows. Both earned Hotbed All-American distinctions for the second consecutive year. After a pair of scores by the two elite 7th graders, PPO’s defense held the game scoreless until Amari Daniels from the Vikings, who Hotbed considers to be the best player in the nation at 12U, scampered down the sidelines, putting the Vikings on the board.
A late drive stalled for the PPO host team that would have broken the game wide open, but the Vikings kept them out of the end zone and the game ended with a one score margin.
After the game, PPO head coach Chris McGonigal was humble but encouraged telling his team ‘hey guys, that’s a good football team, but so are we…good job tonight.’ McGonigal is re-loaded after losing his first league championship in four tries in 2014. The Miramar Wolverines of the AYFL put an end to his ‘Dream Killers’ run at the top of the American Youth Football League made up of predominately Broward County based cities in South Florida. Since then McGonigal and his Bengals, behind the arm of stellar Football Hotbed All-American and National Middle School QB Invitational class of 2021 winner Nicholas Vattiato, have reloaded.
Coach McGonigal led the Broward County Football University National Championship Team as the 6th grade coach last year, that finished as the runner up in the 64-team national tournament. He assembled a stellar group of South Florida talent from all over Miami-Dade and Broward County. Many of those talented kids joined him for the 2015 regular season, leaving their respective programs.
Now, it appears that Pembroke Pines Optimist is the team to beat in the Southeast at the 12&under age grouping.