After delays due to weather and school performance conflicts, the championship game in the eight-to 10-year-old youth flag football league was finally played on Monday, March 27. Struggling to make it happen on the gridiron, Team Lancaster Design Group lost in the final game of the season against Team Truly Nolen.
Finishing the season with successes and growth, both team coaches proudly stood with their teams as the players recited The Center’s “Youth Sports Core Promises.” Coach Gary Harlan guided Team Lancaster Design Group through 40 minutes of regulation play, encouraging them through each snap of the football.
Coach Rick Hurst showed sportsmanship as his team had a seemingly easy time of it on the field. With powerhouses Dante Tillelli and Aiden Templeton on the bench for most of the last minutes of the game, Hurst made sure all of his players had playing time in the game of the season.
With Finley Duncan behind the center as the quarterback for most of the game, Truly Nolen showed their diversity on the field. Duncan’s first receiver was Tori Hurst, the coach’s daughter. An unfortunate miscalculation landed the football in the hands of Payton Harlan, giving him an interception near the opponent’s half of the field.
Lancaster Design Group started their offensive possession in the pass only zone of the field with quarterback Andrew Hyman ready to move the football. In three plays, Hyman lead the team toward the end zone with a catch by Kieran Cloutier, Caleb Kinkle and a final catch of the ball just outside of the end zone by Layla Yavalar.
Ending their hold on the ball without a score, Truly Nolen showed skill and energy on the field with a nice run after the short catch by Tillelli, stopped only by the flag pull of Cloutier. Jackson Kruse took over the helm for a play with a nice reception by Templeton for the first score of the championship game. Unable to execute the point after, the score remained at 6-0.
The first snap of the next series for Lancaster Design found Kinkle the go to guy, running the ball to near midfield. After pass attempts, Hyman found Ava Harlan who carried the ball to within three yards from the first down. Templeton showed his defensive moves by batting down Hyman’s pass on third down.
Taking over the ball on downs, Truly Nolen made one play work for them. With the ball in hand Tillelli went the distance with Hyman chasing him into the end zone, adding six more points to the scoreboard. The strong Lancaster Design defense once again stopped the point after attempt.
Hyman attempted a bait and hook play using Yavalar as the bait, hoping to draw the defenders to her, but Tillelli did an excellent job reading the play and quickly pulled Hyman’s flag ending the play.
Regrouping the huddle, Hyman decided to go to P. Harlan, one of his consistent play makers. Harlan took the ball behind the line of scrimmage giving him the option to run or pass. Keeping the ball, he took his team seven yards short of the first down line with the flag pull by Duncan.
One minute was left in the first half of the game as Harlan again ran the ball, gaining a much-needed first down. Coach Harlan called the first of two timeouts in the half.
Running the ball, Harlan gained short yardage. As the clock ran down, Kinkle got the call as his team faked the double reverse. Unable to get out-of-bounds to stop the game clock, seconds ticked off until finally the second and final timeout was called with only six seconds left on the clock. A Hail Mary pass was thrown with fingers crossed, but no catch to end the first half of play.
With only 20 minutes left in the game before naming a champion, Team Lancaster Design Group started with the football in hand. Hyman looking for the open man hit A. Harlan in the forehead. The ball bounced off her with a thud, as she laughed it off right into the huddle.
Showing they are still kids who play at The Center to have fun, sidelined teammates were witnessed playing with water bottles, spraying each other for amusement. Others were cheering and chanting, rooting on their teams with enthusiasm.
Harlan took the ball to the 23-yard line with Templeton finally making the stop. On third down, with the fake handoff, Hyman’s throw went off the hands of P. Harlan for the incomplete pass, giving Truly Nolen their first offensive possession of the second half.
Always showing field presence and calm, Duncan threw an accurate pass to Alex Cox who took the football with the run after the catch for Truly Nolen, but was called for flag guarding, putting the ball back on the five-yard line. On second down, Tillelli caught the lateral pass behind the line of scrimmage. After a quick delay, Tillelli eluded the flag pull of Yavalar at the sideline managing to stay in bounds.
Tillelli’s natural athletic ability shined all season and in the championship game as he raced the defense down the field to score the third touchdown of the game. Truly Nolen’s inability to get the ball into the end zone on the extra point attempts kept the score at 18-0.
Team Lancaster Design took over the ball hoping to put something together with more than 10 minutes left on the game clock. On second down, P. Harlan took the snap only to be immediately stopped by the quick play by Tillelli.
Again with the snap to P. Harlan on third down, the ball was handed off to Hyman who ran the ball for good yardage as he was being pursued by Templeton to make the stop before the first down mark on the field.
Mixing it up on the field, Truly Nolen looked to Hurst as their designated receiver. With a catch and rushing yards, A. Harlan and Cloutier made critical stops for the Lancaster Design squad.
With Tillelli on the bench, as Truly Nolen went on defense, Kinkle was the intended receiver down field. Kinkle could not hold on to the Hyman pass, taking it to second down.
Harlan took the snap for the next two downs hoping generate momentum on the field for his team. Unfortunately, the first pass to Hyman was short and third down play did not get them the yardage needed, giving the ball back to Truly Nolen with five minutes left to play.
Templeton took the ball for a five-yard gain with a Cloutier flag pull. P. Harlan made the next defensive stop for Lancaster Design, stopping Templeton again. With two minutes posted on the clock,
Bringing the championship game to an end, Kruse threw the ball to Templeton for a first down, with Kyle Samuels and Tristan Duncan combined their efforts on offense with three nice catches and runs nearly getting their team another score before time ran off the game clock with the final score of 18-0 and Team Truly Nolen as the victors.