The team swept regionals and will compete in local fall/winter leagues leading up to the national championships during the week of the NFL Pro Bowl in February.
ROSSFORD, Ohio — Two weeks ago, WTOL 11 highlighted a youth flag football team by the name of the NWO Rockets who won the 8U Regional flag football tournament in Green Bay.
Well, it turns out one team isn’t enough, as Toledo will also be represented by the 12U Rossford Lions.
This past weekend in Detroit, the team went undefeated en route to their own regional championship.
“We knew we were going to do it, but it felt amazing to get through it,” 12-year-old quarterback Matthew Helman said.
It was the group’s first-ever appearance at a regional tournament, yet the pack of Lions proved king.
“We were trying to get a feel for it and apparently the kids just decided to go ahead and win the whole thing,” head coach Scott Salsbury said.
The team, made up of 11 and 12-year-olds, finished Saturday with a perfect 5-0 record to clinch their spot into the national bracket.
“I got to get the last catch to win the game and just holding that ball, everyone jumping up and down, it was so amazing,” 12-year-old Hayden Salsbury said.
It was a dominant display of talent, outscoring their opponents by an average of 20 points per game and led by their QB Helman, who won tournament MVP.
“I felt that anybody could’ve got that award because we have such a talented team,” Helman said. “Just to be nominated MVP was pretty cool.”
Confidence within this team has never been an issue. Yet two days prior to their trip, the group received some special advice from a former Toledo star.
“We had Bruce Gradkowski out here giving a speech to the kids,” Scott Salsbury said. “I really think that got them going in the right direction and we thank Bruce for his kind words.”
His support combined with team camaraderie, which dates back to when these boys were 6 years old, not only has put the Lions in a position to represent the 419 but will be the biggest key moving forward.
“You’re on the same page with everybody and have known them a long time and are friends with,” Helman said. “So, that’s been helpful and great.”
“We didn’t get mad at each other. I felt like if we made a bad play, which we didn’t have that many, we’d pick each other up,” Hayden Salsbury said. “Team chemistry, us staying together, us having fun. Everyone’s here just having fun.”
The Lions will have to wait till February, the week of the NFL Pro Bowl before they can compete for the national championship.
In the meantime, they’ll be participating locally in a fall and winter league to help prepare them for the big stage.