49ers take 2017 flag football championship

Kaiden Graves: It’s safe, fun, we got to play in the rain and get dirty

The 49ers outscored the Seahawks 34-32 in a championship Superbowl game on Aug. 26, in the grand finale of the 2017 season for the Cordova Amateur Youth Athletics Corporation’s flag football league

Kaiden Graves, of the 49ers, and Travis Kuhn, of the Seahawks, were named Most Valuable Players for their respective teams. 49ers’ Lilly Kuhn, and Seahawks’ Dexter Gasmen, were awarded Most Improved Players.

League director Justin Graham said both teams ended the season with an overall record of three wins and three losses each. Prior to the Super Bowl game, the Seahawks were the regular season champs, with a record of three wins and two losses, but the 49ers rallied together to take the win during the championship game.

A major challenge faced right from the beginning was that not enough players signed up to make age-specific teams, so Graham decided they’d mix it up a little, by having two balanced teams with 5-15 years old on each team, he said.

It worked, with just enough kids participating to make two teams.

The highlight of the season, said Graham, was seeing older players become mentors for their younger teammates, creating a fun and competitive league despite the age gap.

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Bastien Wagner, 5, the son of Brian and Marcela Wagner, played his first season of flag football this summer.

“He was in T-ball the last couple of years,” said Brian Wagner. “We asked him if he wanted to try football, and he was very excited about it.”

Wagner said he was impressed by the one-on-one coaching the players received.

Initially, Wagner said he wasn’t convinced the league would work that well with mixed age groups on the two teams, but he ended up impressed at how well older kids worked with the younger ones.

Now he hopes this season will be an inspiration for the future.

Bastien had fun and enjoyed learning football rules, and the coaches did an awesome job, Wagner said.

Kaiden Graves, 15, was captain and quarterback of the 49ers team. His season takeaway was being a part of the flag football community and making the kids happy, he said.

“I had fun playing with the little kids, and my friends. Flag football is safe, it’s fun, we got to play in the rain and get dirty. It was a good experience, being captain. I had to stay strong, light-minded, and not get stressed out, because the younger kids were looking up to me. I didn’t care if I won or lost during the Super Bowl game. Everyone went home a winner – and everyone felt like a winner. Our coaches worked their butts off to make the season fun for us. The league was really well organized and I had a great time,” he said.

Next year’s flag football season will begin in June.

Graham said he’d like to give special thanks to all of the competitors that made the league as great as it was this year, along with supportive parents and coaches –  49ers’ Mike ‘Popcorn’ Merritt, Seahawks’ Evan ‘Call me Coach’ Fields, and volunteer referee Andy Anderson.

 

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