Youngstown teams chase national flag football championships
Giles’ YYFFA Bengals are seeking
back-to-back titles in trip to Dallas
By Greg Gulas
The NFL Flag Football Tournament of Champions will take place this weekend at AT&T Stadium in Dallas with two local teams from the Youngstown Youth Flag Football Association set to compete for a national title.
The YYFFA’s 9-10 year-old Jets co-ed squad and its 13-14 defending girls national champion Bengals team will begin play Saturday morning at the home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys.
“While the crowds might be less than that of a professional football game, there will undoubtedly be double the enthusiasm and cheering by both parents and friends for their favorite team and players,” YYFFA president Elliott Giles said. “This is the third year in a row that two teams from the Youngstown Youth Flag Football Association will be represented with our 13-14 Cincinnati Bengals girls seeking to become the first ever team to win back-to-back national championships.”
In opening day pool play, the Jets will play teams representing the Houston Texans, Baltimore Ravens and Oakland Raiders, while the defending champion Bengals will take on teams representing the Texans, Arizona Cardinals and New York Jets.
The YYFFA began competing on the national level in 2010 and its Bengals’ entry has been one of the top postseason teams heading into weekend play, having won four consecutive regional crowns.
They defeated Las Vegas (the Arizona Cardinals’ representative) last season in New Orleans for their initial title, having advanced to the championship game the year before when they fell to the Texans from Cedar Park, Texas, played in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
“You always remember the first time you do something so to have the opportunity to become the first team ever to repeat as national champions is very, very special. It’s also motivating,” Giles said. “We have three returnees from last year’s team and have added more athletes, so I feel as if we are a better team overall than a season ago. I told our girls that if we play our game and continue to execute like we have all season, then this is our championship to lose. On any given day, however, anything can happen and that is why you play the game.”
Members of this year’s team include Dakota Naples (Wilmington, Pa.); Brittany Mook (Boardman); Znayia Brown (Youngstown); Anna Bodo (Mineral Ridge); Kendra Kelly (McDonald); Olivia Sanson (McDonald); Sadie Walker (East Palestine); Alexis Cross (Columbiana) and Miranda Dunlap (Columbiana).
While the Bengals’ route to the championship was rather uneventful, drama surrounded the Jets, who posted an 18-1 mark and won spring and fall titles heading into regional play.
They traveled to the Baltimore Ravens regional where they went 2-1 in pool play, entering the playoffs as a sixth seed.
They posted a 2-0 mark and advanced to the championship game where they finished runner-up to Virginia.
The following week they had another shot in Cincinnati at the Bengals’ regional, but were bounced in the second round.
“After that loss, the parents and kids were down and I didn’t think that we’d have another chance to compete. After a few days their commitment was honored to the team and two weeks later we took our final shot at the New York Jets regional,” Giles said. “For the third time in four weeks we got on the road for a final chance to get to Dallas. The third time was definitely the charm and from the opening game it was as if we took no prisoners.”
The Jets’ defense allowed just 27 points in seven total games, outscoring opponents by a 135-27 count.
They defeated East Yonkers for the regional title.
The 9-10 team members include Alexis Giles (Boardman); Dean Boyd (Boardman); Joey Battista (Canfield); Dom Magliocca (Canfield); Aiden Hall (Struthers); Ethan Powell (Crestview) and Beau Brungard (Springfield).