Pulling The Flag

Catch Up With The Kids

A few weeks ago, we shared information that BAFA Youth Flag Co-ordinator, Steve Whitter had stepped down from his position just before the Under 17 & Under 13s season was about to kick off.

With that breaking news, concerns were raised that the league season was in jeopardy of ever getting under way.

Thankfully, that was not the case and we are almost half-way through the season having played two out of the five league fixtures in both the North and South divisions.

Since last year, there have been a few changes in the Youth landscape. Firstly the age group names have changed. Junior and Cadet, have been replaced with the more age relevant Under 17s & Under 13s. Curious really, as the adult league is still called the Senior League. Maybe a change is in the pipeline? What would we call it? Over 17s? Doesn’t sound right does it? Lets hope we stick with Seniors. Anyway, I digress.

Other introductions consist of all games being played on marked out pitches. Great in principal, but quite restricting for the teams who cannot commit to being able to have a venue with the facilities required. In particular, it has caused some issues with available hosting teams. Some of you might wonder why this is a big deal, well, we have it on good authority that the requirement will be all Senior fixtures will require marked out pitches in the near future. So this could be a sticking point for host teams at Senior level down the line.

More importantly, weve seen the addition of a few new teams joining the already established ones in the league. The Northants Titans have developed a youth system over the last year under the stewardship of Head Coach Duncan Anderson and have joined the Under 17s South Division. Two teams have also joined the Under 13s in the South, the Hertfordshire Cheetahs and Berkshire Renegades. The Renegades have yet to play a game, however we are assured they will be making an appearance before the season ends.

Titans

In the North, our own correspondent Neil Wymer has entered the Leicester Huntsmen into the Under 13s league, having developed the club and its players over the past eighteen months.

They must be growing flag footballers in Coventry, as there is now another organisation growing in the Coventry area called the Pink Panthers Academy. They have yet to commit to playing any league fixtures, but this is quite amazing when you consider the success of the all ready established Coventry Cougars in that city. Head Coach, Pete Evans is hopeful of getting some game time this year, but doesn’t want to over stretch the organisation at present.

One last change that some of you might have been unaware of, is the change in name of last years Under 17s championship winning team. The Marlow Wolves are no more and they have been re branded as the Buckinghamshire Wolves at all levels.

Under 17s North

Cougars kids

So far, there have only been three teams having played fixtures in the Under 17s North’s first two fixtures. The reluctance of the Doncaster Mustangs flag team to travel away and Contact fixture clashes, has left them sitting out the first two rounds. Host team for the first two rounds have been the Chorley Buccaneers, along with travelling teams the Coventry Cougars and Studley Bearcats.

Having played just four games, the Cougars are currently sitting on a 6-0 record after also receiving two forfeit wins from Doncaster. Back-to-back victories in both T1 & T2 over Chorley and Studley respectively have given the Cougars a clear run at the top seed in the North. With a large squad of talented playmakers, the Cougars are still awaiting their first National Championship. Could this be their year?

The Buccaneers look likely to follow them to Britbowl with a current 4-2 record. The only reality that could impede them could be if Doncaster were to turn out in the remaining fixtures and win out. Hopefully Doncaster will be seen in action, as the last two tournaments are in their own back yard. For now Chorley will be happy to have the second spot to themselves.

A special mention should go to the Studley Bearcats, as they have an extremely young team entered into the league at this level and have really stepped up to the mark, giving the Cougars and Buccaneers some exciting battles so far.

Under 17s South

hORSHAM

The South is in complete contrast to the North. There are three competitive teams vying for the top two spots. Last years runners-up team, the Horsham Barbarians have been highly impressive, winning all of their games with style scoring 349 points and only conceding 31. Credit must go to coaches Dayle Kirby and Dave Lee. They have built an extremely talented squad that is more than capable of avenging their defeat to the then Marlow Wolves in last years final.

Speaking of which, this years Buckinghamshire Wolves are currently engaged in an unexpected scrap for second place with the Northants Titans. Both teams are tied on the head-to-head after two rounds with victories against each other and sit at 5-3. The Wolves have lost one of the best players to ever play youth. MVP of last year, Jacob Few has moved up to Senior age this time around and they are in a rebuilding phase. In the words of Sam Mckee “you can’t replace a Jacob Few”.

Dont rule out the Wolves though, the two time champions from 2012 & 2013 are coached by two of the best in the land in the previously mentioned Sam Mckee and new Head Coach Bob Allen. If anyone can turn them around, it’s those two.

For the Titans, their early success is in parity with that of their progressing Senior team. In their rookie season they have been a breath of fresh air so far in the South and look like real contenders to break up the Wolves and Barbarians dominance of last year. Impressive when you consider they only set up around this time last year.

The London Warriors and Blitz are not currently in the running with the other three, given time they will emerge through the ranks though. For now they are admiring the talents of others and enjoying playing at each tournament.

Under 13s North

bucccscs

“Thats how champions do it” was the cry after the Chorley Buccaneers Red Beards threw a game winning extra point, on the last play of the game against the Leicester Huntsmen in T2.

Last years champions have been dominant in their defence of their title after the first two rounds. A 7-0-1 record see’s them sit at the top of the division. The draw is a minor blip for them as they didn’t get to play their fixture against the Studley Bearcats and a draw was awarded. Otherwise, they have only really been fully tested in the one game against the Huntsmen, coming out 14-13 on that last play win.

The Red Beards haven’t actually lost a league fixture for the best part of three years, despite losing two out of the last three finals. Winning last years final has given the Bucs, coached by Ian Oxborrow, Keith Schofield and Ian Hargreaves a massive confidence boost and they look like the champions elect at this point in the season.

The rookie Leicester Huntsmen have ruffled a few feathers. If they had managed the clock more wisely against the Red Beards, we might have been writing a different narative to this Under 13s section. The reality is, they didn’t and will most likely be smarting from that loss. They have hit the ground running though and a 6-2 record after two rounds see’s them tentatively looking at finals with one eye on the Coventry Cougars behind them.

Huntsmen 1

A potential stumbling block for the Huntsmen could be having their large squad cut down to as little as four come July’s T4. With Leicester holidays starting two weeks before the rest of the country, most of their players will likely be being dragged around by their parents in foreign climbs.

The 2014 beaten finalists, Cougars can find themselves a little hard done by so far this season. In T1 they didn’t have a recognised Quarterback and in T2, they only fielded four players. Quite remarkable that they took the Huntsmen so close last time out, only just losing 14-12. A 3-4-1 record doesnt do them justice and had they had been able to play the tied match-up verses the Black Beards they would probably only be two games behind the Huntsmen. They are not done just yet and T3 is vital for them if they are to have any chance of making finals.

Chorley Buccaneers second team the Black Beards and Studley Bearcats are works in progress at this point and have fielded some very young players. Again credit to the Bearcats, as they come into the league not looking for wins, but merely to enjoy playing he game and being around the flag community.

Under 13s South

Last year, the Marlow Wolves went the whole regular season unbeaten. They played the Coventry Cougars in the Semi-finals and remarkably lost. This time around, it looks like the London Blitz are the team who may go unbeaten.

Head Coach, Brian Faller is leading their charge for glory and an impressive eight wins from eight has them handily placed to do so. They have actually only played five games, with three forfeit wins awared for no-shows by Hertfordshire and Berkshire over the two tournaments.

They Certainly look the side to beat from the South and if they can continue their impressive form, come finals nobody is going to want to face the Blitz!

Blitz

The Wolves Under 13s team is also in a rebuilding phase. With most of their experienced players moving up to Under 17s, they are finding their feet and being as competitive as possible. Second place is theirs for the taking and with Head Coach, Sam Mckee and four months of his guidence, they might just be a real threat come finals.

The London Warriors, look to be struggling to keep pace with the Blitz and Wolves,but a nice 33-26 win over Hertforshire Cheetahs will boost their squads confidence.

Hertfordshire participated in T2, unfortunately they couldn’t manage a win, the experience of playing will be great for them going forward though and we will look forward to seeing them in T3.

Recap

Now in June, we are only a couple of weeks away from T3 South on June 13th and three weeks from the North’s, on the 20th. We will endevour to keep you up-to-date with all the scores and standings from the BAFA national leagues for Under 17s & 13s and give you our thoughts on who will make it to Britbowl.

Huntsmen

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