Pan Pac boys win 13-and-under flag football city championship

| January 26, 2023 | 0 Comments

If flag football isn’t America’s fastest growing sport, it sure has to be up there along with women’s wrestling, indoor bouldering and skateboarding, all of which are recent additions to the Olympic Games.

In early 2022, the NFL announced its intention to grow its international business to $1 billion annually. To help achieve this, the league lobbied to get flag football included in the upcoming 2028 Olympics, which happen to be here in Los Angeles.

The NFL knows a winning combination when it sees one.

Ten boys represented Pan Pacific Park Recreation Center last month in the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks Flag Football Championships, which they won.

The team consisted of players chosen from Pan Pacific’s four-team league. The season was 10 games long and, afterward, each coach nominated players from his team to represent Pan Pacific in the city tournament. Park director Eric Calhoun made the final selection for the All Star squad that competed against the city’s other Recreation and Parks teams.

Youth flag football is a seven-against-seven format, which is smaller than the standard 11-man squads of tackle football. A typical flag football offense consists of a quarterback, one running back, two wide receivers, two guards and a center. Speed trumps size, and a quarterback who is an accurate passer is tough to beat.

“We averaged 40 points per game in the playoffs leading up to the finals,” said Head Coach Fred Ragsdale.

That didn’t mean those early games weren’t competitive. In Pan Pacific’s second playoff game — the Metro Region semifinals — Pan Pacific defeated a tough Silver Lake team 28-20.

WINNING TEAM (left to right): Sam Stefan, Coach Fred Ragsdale, Aaron Shin, Ethan Hollis, Coltrane Ragsdale, David Ortega, Tru Casas, Teddy Barringer, Reece Luna, Ronan Schugren, Coach Rick Luna, Miles Dubin, Jude Lehrer and Park Director Eric Calhoun.

Nothing was as thrilling as the title game against Valley Region champions, Northridge.

“These [Pan Pacific and Northridge] were two physical teams, and it came down to a slugfest and great defense,” said Coach Ragsdale, whose son Coltrane was the team’s quarterback. Coltrane and wide receiver Reece Luna were a combination that opponents just couldn’t stop. Reece’s father Rick was the team’s other coach.

“Our defense was led by Jude Lehrer, who had the most flags pulled on the team,” said Ragsdale. “Ronan Schugren played weak-side defensive tackle and got the most sacks.”

The score was 7-6 late in the second half. Both teams had scored a touchdown, but Northridge failed to convert for extra points. Pan Pacific was able to stop Northridge behind the goal line for a safety in the last two minutes, and the final score ended 9-6.

Growing pains
The largest youth flag football league in the country was established by the NFL in 2012 and is open to boys and girls ages 5-17. In the next year, the NFL plans to launch a men’s professional division. How timely, especially with career-ending injuries and more and more evidence linking chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) to the tackle version of (American) football. Parents and their young athletes might view flag football as a safer alternative.

“That’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it?” said Ragsdale. “I won’t be pushing tackle football, and my wife is adamantly against it.”

But is flag football really that much safer? It is full-contact — with blocking — and when two full-grown teenagers slam into each other without pads or helmets, serious injuries could occur.

“That’ll have to be worked out, or maybe it’ll just become passing-style flag football, without blocking,” said Ragsdale.

Growing pains are good if the result is fewer injuries.

Save the accompanying team photo. I’m betting that some of these young men might one day represent the U.S. on the Olympic flag football team.

Get their autographs now!

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