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Flag football league rising in Vallejo – Times-Herald - FlagSpin

Flag football league rising in Vallejo – Times-Herald

There are no helmets, shoulder pads, and only 10 people on the field as opposed to 22. There was no kicking the ball, blocking or tackling, although there was enough flags to fill a United Nations meeting.

However, there was plenty of laughter as coaches screamed, “Alright, ready to play football?”

The NFL Youth Flag Football League in Vallejo, also called the Coach Sarna League, held a championship tournament on Saturday at the Dan Foley Park Sport Complex. This ended what organizers are saying was a successful first season for the growing and alternative way to play football.

There were 120 athletes involved in the league sponsored by the NFL, with approximately 25 percent of the athletes being female. The league is looking to expand and have leagues in the fall and spring and expand into Benicia. Right now the teams are organized by schools, with schools coming from Vallejo and Richmond

Ryan Sarna, who coaches one of the teams, said he thought of the idea to put together a league in Vallejo.

“I saw that there was no league in the area so I immediately did what I could to start one here,” Ryan Sarna said. “There was a two-to-three month interview process with the NFL and then we got started. We have 14 teams from schools such as Caliber (Charter school in Vallejo), Hogan Middle, MIT and Griffin Academy. It’s a low cost to play ($65 for the year) and that helps because 90 percent of the families in the league are below the poverty level. We also give scholarships. Basically anyone who wants to play, we make sure they can play.”

Kids line up for a play during an NFL Youth Flag Football League game at Dan Foley Park in Vallejo on Saturday (Chris Riley/Times-Herald)

Each week the teams practice two to three times, while each Saturday the teams play two games. Each game features two halves of 15 minutes each with the clock not stopping.

The offense has four times to get to midfield (the size isn’t regulation) and then another four downs to get in the end zone. The quarterback can’t run, and nobody can rush the quarterback. So stop debating whether or not the kids should say, “One hippo” or “One alligator” before crossing the line of scrimmage on defense.

The atmosphere gave off the feeling of kids playing in neighborhood streets or cul-de-sacs, only a little more organized.

One player on the 49ers, 10-year-old Campbell McCarthy, didn’t hesitate when asked what her favorite part of the day was each week while playing.

“Making new friends,” McCarthy said. “I also like playing wide receiver, because I like catching the ball and making touchdowns.”

Ryan’s father, Ken Sarna, acted as the official on Saturday and was pleased to see the league with so many girls as he believes there is a future for women in football.

“Soon you’re going to see colleges giving out scholarships for women to play flag football,” Ken Sarna said. “It’s a growing sport and people are starting to notice.”

However, Ken Sarna was mostly just excited to see everyone have a good time on Saturday without scouts and coaches yelling … Well, most of the time.

“The focus for this league is just having the kids have fun,” Ken Sarna said. “You see all the kids constantly running around so they’re getting good exercise. All the kids go to the same school so they already know each other and are cheering each other on. But it’s mostly just a good family activity. Look at all the families watching here today. It’s great.”

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Travis Burnett

Travis Burnett

A pioneer in the flag football community, Travis helped co-found the Flag Football World Championship Tour, FlagSpin and USA Flag. Featuring 15+ years of content creation for the sport of flag football, creating and managing the largest flag football tournaments on the planet, coaching experience at the youth and adult level as well as an active player with National and World Championship level experience.

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