NFL FLAG teams descend on Austin for regional

By Kelsey Kotzur

Boys and girls flag football teams from across the country competed in a two-day, round-robin tournament June 30 and July 1 at Whitaker Fields on the University of Texas campus. The NFL FLAG Regional Tournament, appearing in Austin, Texas, for the first time, featured players age 9 to14 from 41 NFL FLAG powered by USA Football teams in seven states.

The tournament left some teams wanting more. Coach Haiven Kornbluth of the 9-11 coed division-winning Junior Varsity Dolphins thought the event was tremendous. The Dolphins allowed only seven points during pool play, earning a 4-0 record. As the No. 1 seed in their division playoffs, the Dolphins defeated the NS Chargers, 24-13, for the title.

Kornbluth said his Dolphins are already excited about next year’s tournament.

“The kids really enjoyed themselves, and they’re already asking, ‘Are we coming back next summer?’ ” Kornbluth said. “We probably drove the furthest to get there, all the way from Miami. It was definitely a road trip they’ll always remember.”

Like Kornbluth, coach Gino Carducci of the Coast 2 Coast Raiders was very satisfied with the event, especially the referees.

“The referees were the best we’ve come across, and the fact that three refs were on each game was very good and well planned,” Carducci said.

The Coast 2 Coast Raiders from Gilbert, Ariz., earned the 12-14 boys division regional championship by posting a 4-0 pool play record and allowing 18 points through four games. The Raiders needed extra time to defeat the Varsity Dolphins of Miami, 20-14, in the championship, securing the title with a last-second catch by N’Keal Harry in overtime. In addition to a championship, Carducci thought his players gained a lot from the tournament.

“Our boys are always looking for ways to measure ourselves and playing against other teams is a great way to see how we’re doing,” Carducci said. “They definitely got a big confidence boost.”

Three teams battled for the 12-14 girls division title. Despite a 1-3 record in pool play, the Steiner Ranch Steelers were able to defeat the Las Vegas Saints, 7-6, to earn the championship.

All three teams will advance to the 2013 NFL FLAG National Tournament of Champions, which will be held at Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans in February. There, they will face the winning teams from seven other regionals.