St. Anne's Church was host to the League of Champions flag football tournament.
By BILL SULLIVAN
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
AUSTINTOWN -- Jeff Magada knelt on the soft grass outside St. Anne's Church, talking to members of a flag football team that was just eliminated in the League of Champions Let-it-Fly 4-on-4 tournament Saturday.
Magada, the tournament organizer and director of the League of Champions Sports Programs, was offering a pep talk, speaking to the players about the values of playing hard and of accepting defeat as men.
Such is the nature of leadership. It is learned on the field of battle, nurtured on sporting turfs everywhere and it is taught by men like Magada.
Able to relate: It was more than just symbolic for Magada to come down to their level, kneeling in their midst. He's been there, and is quick to offer a kind word of encouragement to a young man.
Denise Lobaugh, 37, of Youngstown, had two sons playing on the team called the Playboys, who defeated What, 40-13, for the championship of the 16-18 division.
"Jeff [Magada] has really produced something great," Lobaugh said. "He's a great person. For him and his brother [Paul] to do this for these kids, which they need, is great.
"The League of Champions has really gotten these kids to know each other. Fortunately, most of my boys have participated in this and they have learned a lot. It teaches them responsibility, it teaches them how to act with each other, how to be a team, not to be just an individual."
In the past, the LOC has had fall flag football tournaments, 3-on-3 basketball tournaments and a charity golf event, but this was the first time to try spring football.
Based on the 60-plus participants, it was deemed a success by the organizers.
Brian Canacci, 22, a 1997 graduate of Fitch High, played in the LOC events for four years and was on hand to watch his brother Keith, 17, compete.
"It's a good league, the rules are good, it's run pretty well," Canacci said. "He runs a good league. He watches over everyone, he's a good guy."
Scoreboard: The Bandits defeated Elite, 30-12, to win the 14-15 bracket and the Cardinal Crushers took third.
Cindy Meese of Austintown had sons Jeff, 18, and Ryan, 15, playing in the tournament. A light drizzle couldn't deter her from cheering on her boys.
"My sons entered it about five years ago and they really enjoyed it and have been playing ever since," Meese said.
"He's a very good role model; my sons really look up to him," she said of Magada. "He shows a good image."
Among other gifts for Mothers Day, Meese got a football trophy and some muddy clothes from her boys.
Paul Magada, 38, proudly admitted that the LOC has serviced 800 young men in the last eight seasons.
"I enjoy working with kids; something that's in my heart," he said.