Flag football teams head to Florida for tourney

November 16, 2001|By ERIC GALVAN, Sports Writer

A year ago, when the Imperial Valley's 12-14-year-old boys flag football team went to Orlando, Fla., to compete in the NFL Flag Football National Tournament of Champions, the players were just happy to be there.

They had worked for months to get to that point and just making it to a national stage was good enough.

So the team played the way it had up to that point and ended up taking second place in the eight-team tournament.

Just as was the case last year, the Valley's team won a regional tournament recently and earned another trip to the Tournament of Champions.


This time things are different. This time the players aren't just excited about the opportunity to play. This time all the players and coaches want to win it all.

Competition kicks off Saturday morning at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex in Florida and the Valley team will look to become national champion.

"I think we can take first place this year. I think we have more talent and just a better chance of winning it," said 14-year-old Jack Fleming of El Centro, one of three returners from last year's team. "We didn't expect to do as good as we did last year because we were just really excited to be there. This year we expect to do a lot better."

To get back to the championship tournament the Valley squad won a regional tournament Nov. 3 in Hacienda Heights finishing 5-1.

Along with Fleming, returning from last year's squad are Dustin Driscoll and Randy Andrews, both of El Centro. The rest of the eight-man squad is newcomers from around the Valley.

Also from El Centro are Brian Jones and Ruben Salazar, along with Travis LeBaron and Zay Shepherd of Brawley and Adam Warner of Imperial.

"I'm pretty excited about this whole thing. This is my first year on the team and it's just been great," said Warner, 14. "I expect to go out and win this thing. Right now I'm just pumped up, ready to win and kick butt."

Said Salazar: "I'm a little nervous about going out there, but I'm also excited. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me and I just want to go and have fun."

Also competing in the tournament will be a 12-14-year-old Imperial Valley girls team.

Players on the girls team are El Centro residents Rashauna Amos, Yessika Estrada, Marisol Garcia, Kristin Grundman, Ashleigh Guardado and Denise Morita. Rounding out the team are Monique Hartfield and Christina Valenzuela of Brawley.

The competition will kick off at 6 a.m. Pacific Time and will run all day. The tournament will be aired on ESPN and ESPN2 in December.

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