Champs Crowned In Flag Football League
By Kevin Eckleberry
This post originally appeared in the La Grange News on Monday, August 19, 2019.
With the scorching August sun glaring down, a pair of flag-football champions were crowned on Saturday at the George F. Harris Baseball Complex.
The league, which was created by Wesley Woodyard’s 16 Ways Foundation and is run in conjunction with the Troup County Parks and Recreation Commission, has been held for the last month at the Harris Baseball Complex.
A season-ending tournament was held on Saturday, with the first games beginning at 9:30 a.m., and the final ones kicking off about three hours later.
There were two age divisions, one for players ages 6 to 8, and the other for players ages 9 to 12.
In the 6 to 8 division it was team Dependable beating team Joyful, and team Determined got the best of team Loyal in the older age group. While the score was kept in each of the games, the league is about a lot more than just wins and losses.
As the team names indicate, teaching character and life lessons are critical aspects of the league as well, and the coaches understand and embrace that.
The man heavily involved with the creation of the league is Woodyard, a LaGrange High graduate who is in his 12th season in the NFL. Woodyard’s charitable work is done through the 16 Ways Foundation, which was created a decade ago.
Matt Napier, one of the coaches for the runner-up team in the 9 to 12 division, appreciates that the league is focusing on character and not just learning the sport.
“Wesley Woodyard and 16Ways have done a great job of making that the priority, to help the kids become better men in our community, and better examples in our schools,” Napier said. “That’s the foundation of 16 Ways, and that’s kind of what we’re trying to carry over when we get these kids out here.”
Kendall Todd, head coach of victorious team Dependable, said the character aspect of the league is “what it’s about.” “On the one hand for me it’s about giving back to the community,” Todd added. “One thing that 16 Ways was looking for was teaching the kids fundamentals, and life skills. That’s what’s important.”
Ronnie Dunson, head coach of team Determined, said “it’s all about sportsmanship” whether the team wins or losses. “You take a loss, too,” Dunson said. “You’re going to win in life, plus you have to be able to take a loss.”Dunson, like all of the coaches, volunteered to help with the league as a way to help guide the young players.
“I don’t mind working with the kids,” Dunson said. “I was taught well coming up. My parents taught me to give back, and I’ve been doing this for about five years with the kids. I don’t mind.”
All eight of the league’s teams participated in Saturday’s single-elimination tournament, leading up to the championship games. In the 9 to 12 semifinals, team Determined beat team Sincere, and team Loyal beat team Optimistic. In the championship game, it was team Determined avenging a loss to team Loyal earlier in the season.
“That team beat us the first time,” Dunson said. “I told them when we play this team again, we’re going to adjust, and we made some adjustments. We were determined to make some adjustments.”
Although team Loyal ended up on the losing end, Napier nonetheless felt it was a valuable day for his players. “You have the ups and downs, and you have to overcome failures,” Napier said. “It’s like life. This is a great opportunity in a short amount of time to teach those lessons.” Napier added that the “commitment of being out here for practice and being ready to play is something special.”
In the 6 to 8 age group semifinals, team Dependable topped team Reliable, and team Patient got past team Joyful. In the championship game, it was team Dependable prevailing to earn the title.
Kendall Todd, the team’s head coach, is an assistant coach at LaGrange College. Todd was unable to be at Saturday’s first game since LaGrange College was practicing, but the team carried on just fine.
“I’m very proud of them,” Todd said. “The biggest thing was I couldn’t be at the first game because we had practice. The coaches took care of it, and the kids did what they needed to do.”