Dave Wojeski/For the Recorder The Steelers' Richard Battistini tries to get around two Bears defenders.
Dave Wojeski/For the Recorder ABOVE LEFT: The Bears' A.J. Mercado is congratulated by a teammate after scoring a touchdown during the Amsterdam Little Giants Senior Division Super Bowl against the Steelers on Sunday afternoon at Lynch Literacy Academy. ABOVE RIGHT: Damian Montalvo (7) of the Blue Falcons tries to run around two Orange Crushers defenders during Sunday's Little Giants Junior Division Super Bowl.
By ADAM SHINDER
Recorder Sports Staff
For the last four years, Bill Pereicich has had four players forming a strong core that's been at the forefront of the Bears team he coaches in the Amsterdam Little Giants Senior Division -- Jacob Smitka, Dale Stanavich, A.J. Mercado and his son, Isaiah Pereicich.
All four are now 13-year-olds, meaning that Sunday's Senior Division Super Bowl against the Steelers was the final game where Bill Pereicich would coach the foursome. It turned out to be a dream goodbye, with Mercado scoring a pair of touchdowns, while Stanavich and Isaiah Pereicich scored one each in a 28-6 win over the Steelers at Lynch Literacy Academy.
"Between the four of them, I watched them grow up," Bill Pereicich said. "I've coached them in baseball, I've coached them in football, they've grown up with my son. This is their last year together, and it was extra-special."
Not only did that core group -- which made up four of the team's six 13-year-old players -- make the 2012 season a special one for the Bears' head coach, but so did the fact that he got to coach both his sons, with 13-year-old Isaiah at quarterback while 10-year-old Elijah played center.
The Bears also got strong play up front from a group including Kalim Owens-Whited, Taurus Skolnick and Mike Rieken. The team also had a group of eight 10-year-olds who were able to see action during the season, giving the team a solid foundation for 2013.
"The 10-year-olds got a lot of playing time this year," Bill Pereicich said. "They got a lot of experience to come back next year and be key contributors to the team. They worked hard at practice."
For Steelers coach Chris Iorio, the Senior Division Super Bowl was also a farewell, as he said 2012 marked his last year as a head coach. That made a second straight trip to the Lynch turf even more special.
"We knew we had a bunch of good boys, because for the past couple years getting here, we had one of those teams that couldn't win a game," Iorio said. "So, we had good parents and good players that hung in there with us, and we were able to make the Super Bowl last year and again this year."
In the Super Bowl, the Steelers got a four-yard touchdown run from running back Richard Battistini, who formed a standout trio in the backfield along with fellow running back Ramello Lopez and quarterback Trey Holloway.
While Iorio said the Steelers weren't the fastest team in the Senior Division, they persevered through work ethic and plenty of strength up front.
"We had a difficult task, because we weren't as fast as other teams. We were really just missing the speed that we had last year," Iorio said. "Basically, we had to muscle our way to the Super Bowl."
For Bill Pereicich, the 2012 Little Giants season was an exceptionally memorable one, but the best memory for him comes down the road -- when he gets to see his former players reach high school and put on the helmet of the Amsterdam Rugged Rams.
"These kids just improved and improved from day one," he said. "I look forward to watching them wearing that gold helmet."