Recently, the Tulare Youth Athletic Association's 12-14 boys team and the WASUP Lady Raiders 12-14 team from Henderson, Nev., proudly wore the Silver and Black and reached the finals of the NFL FLAG National Tournament of Champions in South Florida during Pro Bowl festivities.
These two teams earned the right to play in the tournament during a regional qualifier hosted by The Oakland Raiders at the team's Alameda, Calif., facility. The coaches from these teams chronicled their experiences in South Florida.
WASUP Lady Raiders
Coach Grace Bernardo
The 2010 NFL FLAG National Tournament will be remembered by our players, parents, families and coaches for the rest of our lives. It was such a wonderful experience. After winning the Oakland Regional in October, it was such a long wait for the Nationals, but well worth it, since previous Nationals were held in November. During this time, my team and I practiced hard each weekend sacrificing our Saturdays and Sundays. Our team consisted of three 14-year-olds, two 13-year-olds and two 12-year-olds, including a 12-year-old QB, Gracie.
The WASUP Lady Raiders pose for a photo at the NFL FLAG National Tournament of Champions in South Florida. Photo courtesy of Grace Bernardo.
We flew the red-eye flight on Thursday night and arrived in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., around 9:00 a.m. We relaxed all day Friday as we hit the beach (right behind the hotel). Saturday was the Tournament, which began at 11:00 a.m. We were in Pool 1 and played the Jets, Lions, and Cardinals. We went undefeated during pool play which gave us a #2 seed for the playoffs. We played defeated both the Ravens then Dolphins to advance to the Championship game that was to be played the next day Sun Life Stadium.
After the games, we attended the beach party sponsored by the NFL. There was alot of food and even NFL Players on hand. Sunday was the big game, and they created a mini-stadium for the games at Sun Life Stadium. We were given new Pro Bowl jerseys to represent the AFC. NFL Players were on hand, along with NFL cheerleaders. Our players were introduced and it was great.
The WASUP Lady Raiders play in the NFL FLAG National Tournament of Champions in South Florida. Photo courtesy of Grace Bernardo.
Although we fell short, losing 6-0 to the Lions from Canada, this was an experience my girls and I will never forget. After the games, we attended the Pro Bowl and all the NFL Flag players were on the field as they introduced the Pro Bowl Players. It was an awsome experince for my girls. We are big Raider fans from Las Vegas and I want to thank you for hosting the regional tournament. We loved representing the Silver and Black at the Tournament!
Tulare Youth Athletic Association
Coach Chris Marquez and Coach Eric Quinonez*
**It was an awesome experience for the players, coaches, and parents who decided to make the trip. Our players represented our community, the Western region, and the Oakland Raiders organization proudly. Although we ended up losing a tough one in the championship game, we'll forever be grateful to the NFL for their kindness and hospitality throughout the weekend.
The Tulare Youth Athletic Association 12-14 boys flag football team poses for a photo during the NFL FLAG National Tournament of Champions in South Florida. Photo courtesy of Chris Marquez and Eric Quinonez.
In addition, South Florida was an awesome place to host the National tournament. Our players were able to soak in some of the coolest attractions that South Florida had to offer. In regards to the tournament itself, it couldn't have been more competitive than it was. Through Day 1, our Raiders went undefeated in pool play and playoff competition. We won the right to play in the Championship game on Sunday at Sun Life Stadium before the Pro Bowl. Being one of the few teams that went undefeated in Day 1 of competition, we were on an emotional high and had all the confidence and momentum in the world.
Saturday night on the town was fun for all of us! Then came Sunday... we had the ball, we were behind by less than touchdown, the clock was winding down, we needed to make some big plays. The crowd was in a frenzy, we definitely didn't have the home field advantage, and it was do or die. To our misfortune, we couldn't execute our offensive plays, we committed a huge penalty, and we lost all chance for a last-second, heroic comeback. Next thing we know, we're humbly accepting our defeat and clapping, out of respect, in honor of our opponent's victory celebration.
The Tulare Youth Athletic Association 12-14 boys flag football team gets ready for a game during the NFL FLAG National Tournament of Champions in South Florida. Photo courtesy of Chris Marquez and Eric Quinonez.
In closing, the salty taste of losing went away quickly, as our kids were given the opportunity to greet the NFL Pro Bowlers, on the field, as they were announced in front of the sellout crowd. That might have been the highlight of highlights for our players that weekend.