YYFFA teams go national again
Valley teams chase
titles in Orlando
By BOB ETTINGER
Abby Farber has been to Disney World. She’s been interviewed by players from the National Football League. And now, Farber wants to be a national champion.
Farber and her teammates from the Youngstown Youth Flag Football Association 13- and 14-year-old girls team as well as the members of 9-10 coed, 11-12 coed and 13-14 boys teams will represent the YYFFA and the Cleveland Browns in the NFL Flag Football National Tournament of Champions at the Wide World of Sports complex this weekend in Orlando, Fla. It’s the eighth consecutive year the YYFFA has sent teams to the nationals.
“Their excitement will be at an all-time high because they know they’re competing against the best teams in the country. We’re fortunate to have good athletes, good kids and good parents,” said Elliott Giles, who will coach all four teams. “We’re blessed to have this opportunity. They’ll never experience this again on this level unless they play in the Final Four or something like that. That’s what this is. It’s an opportunity.”
The teams arrived in Orlando on Thursday and were scheduled to be interviewed by NFL Pro Bowl participants later that evening. The 10-team tournaments began Friday morning with pool play for seeding purposes before the 10-team single-elimination tournament decides the winners. The 9-10 and 11-12 teams were to crown a champion that day while the 13-14 divisions will decide champions today. All the teams and players will head to Disney World today and the Pro Bowl on Sunday before coming home Monday morning.
The 9-10, 11-12 and 13-14 girls all qualified for the tournament in their age brackets by virtue of winning their regional tournaments on the same day in Indianapolis.
“You have to earn the right to go,” said Giles, a former Youngstown State wide receiver. “They broke the tournaments down to 10 regions and you can specifically only play the tournament in your region.”
The YYFFA became just the second organization to send four teams to the tournament in the same year when the Browns contacted Giles and asked him to put together the 13-14 year-old boys team to represent them in Florida.
“It’s pretty exciting considering we’re from little Youngstown,” Giles said. “It’s something special. The NFL asked all 32 teams to choose one team to represent them in 13-14 year-old boys tournament. I got a call from the Cleveland Browns and they asked if I could get a team together. We had earned their respect and have had a lot of success.”
There are roughly 650 kids who compete in the YYFFA during both the fall and spring seasons. The league offers teams in age groups that includes teams ranging in ages from 3 to 12. The teams heading to the national championships are comprised almost entirely of players from the YYFFA.
“These kids are from our league,” Giles said. “We probably have one of the top-five programs in the country with what we’ve been able to accomplish on the national level. Our league is the real deal. Because of the success of the league, the competition in the league, we’re able to do what we do on the national level.”
Farber, a quarterback, and several of her teammates competed in the tournament a year ago and will use that experience this time around.
“I come from a football family,” Farber said. “I play other sports, but I thought I’d give football a try and I liked it. I get to lead the team and I get to control how the game goes ([as a quarterback). This year, most of us have experience. We won’t be as nervous. We’ll all be more comfortable in the positions we play. We’re all more focused in on the football part. We all wanted to go to Disney World and the Pro Bowl last year. Now, we’re focused on playing.”