The Willoughby Biggs play the eventual champions in the semifinals of a 10U national tournament in Henderson, NV. From left to right are Noah Bizjak (QB), Jackson Davis (center), Jack Kadlub (slot), Anthony Keidel (WR). (Submitted)
Any questions that the youth flag football talent in Lake County can compete with the best teams in the country have been answered.
The Willoughby Biggs 10U team finished as national semifinalists in Henderson, Nevada, over NFL Pro Bowl weekend, losing to the eventual champions by 1 point.
The Mentor 8U team, who like the Biggs also advanced to the national tournament by winning the Cleveland Browns regional tournament, finished 2-2, but its coaches also felt they weren’t far away from the ultimate title, also falling to the national champs.
The Willoughby Biggs and Mentor 8U were among 161 teams ranging from 8U to 17U experiencing it all in the desert in the shadow of Las Vegas.
The Biggs, coached by Matt Osolin, won two of three games on the first day to gain confidence heading into single-elimination on Day 2. On that Saturday, the Biggs won its first two games to get to the semifinals against the Spring Hills Allstarz, who won the New Orleans Saints regional. DyIan Osolin and Jackson Davis came up big in a 14-0 win to help the Biggs advance to the semis.
In the national semifinal, the Biggs got out to a quick 7-0 lead. On the last drive of the half the Allstarz drove down the field and scored, but missed the extra point. Eventually, the Allstarz took the lead, but with about a minute left, quarterback Noah Bizjak passed to Anthony Keidel, who ran down the field to score to tie the game and just needed the extra point and a defensive stop to seal the game and move onto the championship.
However, the point-after-touchdown conversion was unsuccessful and the Biggs fell, 14-13.
The Allstarz would go on to win the national championship in the final game, 25-0.
Bizjak threw touchdown passes to Tyler Demand, Timmy Dunn and Jack Kadlub in the first game of the pool play round. Merrik Zavodny had an interception for a touchdown.
The Biggs lost to the Majestic Storm, winners of the Philadelphia Eagles regional in the next game. They defeated the Chiefs regional winner, 32-12, with the Chiefs only other score coming on a desperation heave on the last play of the game in the final game of pool play.
On Sunday, the Biggs’ players, coaches and families all spent some time enjoying the Pro Bowl Games at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas
“It was wonderful event and fun to see professional NFL players playing the game of flag, a game that these boys all love,” Assistant Coach Bryan Bizjak said.
The Mentor 8U team, which also won the Cleveland Browns regional, went 2-2 in the national tournament. It lost in the first round of the playoffs, but started off winning the first two games.
“We had a tough draw for the playoffs and lost to the eventual champions,” Mentor 8U coach Peter Foradis said. “We beat two of the the best teams in the country, we also lost to two of the best teams in the county. When you break it down that’s pretty impressive. Silver lining we were one of the best teams in the country.”
“It was truly a trip we will all remember for a long time. The families and relationships made during this trip will last a lifetime,” Foradis said. “We learned a lot as players and coaches. Moving forward we will learn from it and take the next step to making the kids better athletes.”
“I’m very excited for the future of these kids,” Foradis added. “They are really a special group. I’m thankful my brother and I had the opportunity to coach them. You will see this team again.”