When Pop Warner regional director Jack Arnett contacted Tim Arvanitis about having his team represent Mid-America at the Mitey Mite Bowl as part of the PW National Championships ...
"I told him he had me at 'hello,'" said Arvanitis, who is the president of the Tri Town Raiders as well as head coach for the program's Mitey Mite team.
But when Arvanitis began to scout the two teams the Raiders were scheduled to face the week of Dec. 7-14 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., he feared his team would get burned by more than just the sun.
"Just look at this guy," Arvanitis said while queuing up a highlight video featuring Ormond Beach (Fla.) Sandcrab running back Jonathan Campbell. "He's probably the best player I've ever seen at this age."
The footage was impressive with Campbell running past, around and through overmatched defenders like he was playing against ... ah ... the Bears.
But at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Campbell and the rest of his Sandcrab teammates didn't face the Bears, rather a buzzsaw in the form of the Raiders, who won convincingly 39-6.
Earlier, the Raiders shut out the Millstone (N.J.) Eagles 14-0. Tri Town was the only squad of the 16 Mitey Mite teams selected from across the nation to win both of its "bowl" games.
"Not only was it the first time a Tri Town team has won two games (at the PW National Champions), but the first time we've beat a team from Florida," said Arvanitis, whose team capped a second-straight undefeated season.
"You can say we did lose one game," Arvanitis said of a scrimmage against an out-of-state team for a final tune-up for the Mitey Mite Bowl. "But we rested a lot of our players for that one.
"Still, it was a good wake-up call for us."
The Mitey Mite division is primarily for players ages 8-9. Though the PW National Championships don't provide a championship bracket for Mitey Mites, they started an invitation-only "Bowl" in 2008.
"I see these guys getting down again," said Arvanitis, who will likely move up to coach the team's older players next year at the Junior Pee Wee level. "I know they want to go back, even our coaches. We were telling the ones who have never been down there before what it's like to play in Florida, and they were impressed when they saw it for themselves."
As for the Tri Town representatives who have been down there before, the Raiderettes Midget Dance Team ended its run in the same manner it began it -- with a Pop Warner national title.
"It took us eight years to get back on top," said Robin Arvanitis, wife of Tim and head coach of the Raiderettes. "They won it when they were Junior Pee Wees, but ever since then we would always come up short with a string of second-place finishes."
Midget is Pop Warner's oldest division for ages 14-15.
"I told them they needed to step it up this year," Robin said. "This was going to be their last chance."
Tri Town's Junior Pee Wee national dance champions had 28 members; this year's Midget champs were 12 strong.
"But they're from the original 28 ... they're the ones who stuck it out to the end," said Robin, who also coaches Tri Town's Tiny Mite and Mitey Mite dance teams.