Teens hit the gridiron: ACE Hardware takes the easy win

Center sports ACE Hardware
ACE Hardware's Travis Bates gained crucial yardage last Wednesday night before running into the path of Blue Lagoon's key athlete Chris Snyder. - Monica Simpson | Sun

For more than 10 years, nearly half of the 27 boys in the 14- to 17-year-old flag football league have been friends on and off the flag football field at the Island’s community center. Now some of those same players who first took to the field when they were four years old are driving themselves to the games.

New and newer players to the league were welcomed by lifelong friends to play one of the most popular sports on the Island. ACE Hardware’s Bryce Gunter and Tyler Richards and Aaryn Scalone for Blue Lagoon secured their spots in The Center sports records in the first week of play after two weeks of rain postponements.

Thursday night the boys started another season at The Center of Anna Maria Island. With many of the supportive parents still in the bleachers rooting for and cheering on players on both sides of the field, ACE Hardware coach Chuck McCracken watched his team play a fun game of flag football against Blue Lagoon, coached by Randy Langley.

Despite the final score of 40-12, both teams playing in the recreational league laughed and relaxed during the two halves of play, enjoying a little time away from the pressures of high school and life as a teenager.

Free of video games and cell phones and friends since preschool, Tyler Brewer and Tuna McCracken took the field for ACE Hardware. During the first set of downs, Blue Lagoon’s possession of the ball was cut short by an interception by McCracken.

The ACE Hardware interception was run back for a touchdown, giving the team a quick six-point lead.

Blue Lagoon took back the football after the failed point after by ACE. The team, led by Rutger Langley, went three and out with a near interception. He is joined on the team by his younger brother Roman Langley. The Langleys attended Anna Maria Elementary School with many of the other boys in the league.

ACE Hardware’s Connor Ludwig, who joined the Island bunch in middle school, scored the next touchdown on a bomb by Brewer. Ludwig’s consistent receptions have been his trademark in the league for years.

Once again unable to convert, Blue Lagoon’s QB in the series felt the pressure of Brewer’s cousin Travis Bates. Bates forced Chris Snyder, who joined the league in elementary school, to scramble out of the pocket while waiting on an open receiver.

Three snaps of the ball are all it took for ACE Hardware to be on the march once again.

Blue Lagoon held its own preventing the ACE first down. Rutger Langley, as the quarterback, hit league veteran Jeremiah Sculco for the Blue Lagoon touchdown.

Also missing the extra point, Blue Lagoon left the score at 12-6.

Ludwig’s next great catch, with two minutes on the scoreboard clock, was followed by a short touchdown pass to Brewer. A sliding reception by Ludwig in the end zone took the score to 19-6.

Coming back on the field after halftime, Blue Lagoon took the ball on offense only to be intercepted by ACE Hardware’s David Daigle. Daigle, who met McCracken and Brewer in kindergarten at Anna Maria Elementary School, ran the ball into the end zone after the interception with Snyder diving unsuccessfully for the flag pull.

The score stayed at 25-6 as the result of another failed point after.

A faulty Blue Lagoon snap and a pass beyond the line of scrimmage led to the loss of the ball. The offensive possessions changed several times before ACE Hardware once again scored.

Daigle’s next catch of the game gained critical yards for his team. On the next snap, McCracken hit Morgan Horesh, who met his teammates in the third grade. Horesh ran the football the remaining length of the field for another ACE Hardware touchdown and the extra point.

Instituting the no rush mercy rule on ACE Hardware for having more than a 21-point lead, with the score 32-6, Snyder made a beautiful run on the first snap in the possession for a touchdown, slipping through the hands of all of the ACE Hardware defenders.

The missed point after left the score 32-12.

Showing his ups, Ludwig snagged the high pass by McCracken, turning after the catch to run for another six points. The extra point conversion increased the deficit to 28 points.

The final play of the game gave Snyder the ball with defenders purposefully at a standstill paving the way to end zone with the same love of playing on the community center’s field they did a decade ago.

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