Are You Ready For Some Football?
How about Championship NFL Flag Football? That's right, today we head to Fritz Grupe Park in Stockton California for the final week of The Table Community's Flag Football Summer Session. I've been fortunate enough to capture some of these great young kids in action over the past two Flag Football sessions (view past images HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, AND HERE), including taking their team and individual photos. I'm starting to learn kid's names and they are without a doubt growing on me! I wanted to go over some game highlights as well as some of my favorite photos from the Playoff and Championship games!
Disclaimer: I will do my best to remember and correctly describe each photo, however, there's a good chance I won't remember exactly what happened during each situation.
Playoffs - 49ers Vs Steelers - Ages 8-10
I try my absolute best to capture every team when I visit Stockton for some Flag Football action, but somehow I hadn't seen the Steelers play all session so I was excited to see what they were made of. And they did not disappoint however, they were facing some fierce competition, the 49ers.
This is what Playoff Flag Football is all about!
If you could add every ingredient that makes the perfect Playoff game, mix it together, bake it at 450, the end result would be this game. Hard work from both teams on both ends of the field, great coaching and even better execution by the players. Every time the Steelers would break off for a big play, the 49ers would respond accordingly. By half time they were all tied up at 22 points each.
Led by All Pro Xavier Johnson, the 49ers were able to respond to every move the Steelers made. Both teams left everything out on the field but in the end, it was a fantastic whole team effort by the 49ers that would push them past the Steelers with a nail biting final score of 30 to 28! They would then move onto the Championship game where the Saints were patiently waiting for their arrival.
Cardinals Vs Chiefs - Ages 11-14
Two of the funnest teams to watch go head to head for a chance to move onto the Championship Game. Both teams have players voted into the "All Pro Team", a group of players who show great leadership, sportsmanship and stand out amongst their peers. We are in for another fantastic game!
Win or go Home
Another amazing back and forth game between two incredible teams. Both teams showed they belong in the Playoffs, but unfortunately, only one will move onto the next round. Both coaches seemingly drew up the perfect game plan to combat each other's strengths. By the half, the Cardinals were up by only one point.
I must mention something about the Chiefs that I feel is of high significance, especially when considering how far they've come this session. Teams try their best to remain the same over multiple sessions. Think Club Teams in soccer. The longer they stick together, the more the coaches know their players and players know the system much better. This was the first year the Chiefs were assembled, acquiring players from different teams. An "Expansion Team" if you will. A first session team made it all the way to the final Playoff game, however I believe the experience of the Cardinals as well as the addition of the reigning MVP, Kamario Thomas-Gray, would essentially end the Chiefs inaugural session with a final score of 38 to 28 and the Cardinals would move on. The Cardinals reward? A Championship game versus last session's Champs, the Lions.
49ers Vs Saints - Championship Game - Ages 8-10
A Chance for Redemption
Coming off a Championship loss, the Saints were looking to rectify last session's final game mistakes and raise the trophy they've been working so hard for. In their way was a highly skilled and hard working 49ers team that had just come off one of the biggest wins of the season. The Saints have paid their dues and have been there before. The 49ers are riding a huge wave of momentum going into the Championship game. Who will be crowned Champions?
Very much like their last Playoff game, Xavier Johnson took over the game early on. Break away runs, acrobatic catches and tremendous defense, he was able to showcase his entire repertoire when it mattered most. The 49ers enjoyed early success through ground and air attacks getting help from the entire team in the first half, but the well coached Saints would quickly answer back.
The Saints being one of the most well rounded teams in the league have many options to go to when they need a score of a first down and one, or two of those options, is handing the ball off to one of their incredible Running Backs. To think these boys are under 10 years old is scary. I can see high school and college scouts already chomping at the bit to sign these kids up!
A Tale of Two Halves
In the first half, the 49ers were able to ride their momentum and stay competitive. In the second half, the experience and athleticism of the Saints would dominate as they rolled to a Championship victory. The 49ers never gave up, never became discouraged and fought until the very end. You must tip your hat to them for that, however the last straw for their season was pulled when Benjamin Orozco came away with a late game interception, making it impossible for the 49ers to come back. The game would end 35 to 12 for the Saints victory.
Congratulations Saints! You guys earned every ounce of success this session and I can't wait to see you guys in the next one. Enjoy your Championship Victory, it is well deserved!
Cardinals Vs Lions - Championship Game - Ages 11-14
The Big Show
One team is stacked with skill, strength, size and has threats at every position. The other team is stacked with skill, strength, size and has threats at every position. No, that's not a typo, both teams have essential need covered. More than covered. These two teams are here for a reason. They excel on offense and defense, terrifically coached and both teams execute like a well oiled machine. When the dust settles, who will be crowned? The team with the former MVP, or the former Champions?
I hate to point out the obvious, but anyone familiar with TCF's Flag Football league knows this, the Lions have some big kids and they use it to their advantage. These photos do not do this play justice. It was one of those moments where you say, "oh he's not catching that... I can't believe he caught that". With an aggressive defender on him, Elijah Watkins was able to soar into the air and snag the pass, somehow maintain concentration and pull it in for an early touchdown. Please click on the photos above to view this amazing catch.
The Lions ran a "Hurry-Up" offense for a majority of the game and it seem to catch the Cardinals off guard early on. They had early success in the air as they usually do with the great hands of Able Bautista and utilizing their size, but also maintained a great ground game led by All-Pro Larry Watkins.
The all out offensive attack from the Cardinals was a thing of beauty. A great quarterback hitting his amazing receiving core and of course the most vicious ground game in the entire league provided by Kamario Thomas-Gray. Every play they were either threatening to score, or found themselves in the endzone. It was the epitome of an all around offensive attack. You didn't know which direction they were coming, but you knew they were coming and they executed perfectly. With that said, it was not the defining factor of this game.
The Cardinals defense was the deciding factor of this game. They forced the Lions into multiple mistakes and made them uncomfortable on the field and looked to capitalize on every opportunity. Led by defensive specialist, Marina Thomas-Gray, the Cardinals just seem to have an answer to everything the Lions attempted. It was like the Cardinals were all over the field, like they reacted quicker, as if they were always at the right place at the right time. Their non-stop pressure on defense was the difference maker. Yes their offense put up the big numbers, but their stifling defense is what closed the show. They would finish the Lions off 39 to 28 and become new Champions of the Table Community Foundation's NFL Flag Football League!
A well deserved win over a great team. You guys earned the right to raise that trophy with your all around great team offense and defense. Congratulation on your victory and being crowned Champs! Enjoy your summer and I hope to see you all next session!
Thank you Table Community Foundation!
A huge thank you to everyone who makes this whole thing possible and thank you Tyronne and Raquel Gross for giving me the opportunity to be a part of it all. Without these beautiful people, there might not be NFL Flag Football in Stockton for these amazing kids to play in. A lot of the TCF Staff members are volunteers and pour a lot of their time and effort to help make this possible. They are doing something special for their community and I hope it does not go unnoticed. I am forever grateful for all the hard work you all put into this league. Please join me in thanking everyone at The Table Community Foundation, "Thank you". Please visit their Facebook Page and their Website for upcoming sessions as well as many other great things they're doing in the community! CLICK HERE to view all of the images from the final weekend. See you all at the next session of NFL Flag Football!!!