The WASUP Raiders of Henderson, Nev., pose for a photo at the Oakland Regional NFL Flag Football Tournament. Photo by Allan Yuan.
Recently, the NFL FLAG FOOTBALL Tournament of Champions was held in Orlando, Fla. Three teams representing The Oakland Raiders competed at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World: The Watsonville Saints (9-11 Co-ed), the Southgate Raiders (12-14 Boys), and the WASUP Raiders (12-14 Girls). The WASUP Raiders out of Henderson, Nev., won their division and were crowned the NFL FLAG FOOTBALL National Champions.
In order to earn the trip to Orlando, teams participated in regional tournaments around the country. The WASUP Raiders, for the second year in a row, earned a spot at Nationals by winning the Oakland Regional held in November at the Raiders Alameda, Calif., facility.
Because the regional was held in November and the championship in February, WASUP had to stay prepared and motivated for two and a half months. "It took a lot of hard work, a lot of sacrifices," said assistant coach Gerry Garcia. "Trying to stay motivated during that time was difficult. The weather was another factor. It started getting colder. We practiced Saturdays and Sundays. There wasn't any more season or league play so we had to find teams to scrimmage and the main people we scrimmaged were boys' teams. It was a lot of building and trying to get motivated and get on track."
The team's hard work paid off because they were undefeated in the championship tournament. "There were eight teams in the national tournament," explained Garcia. "The pool we were in we faced the New York Jets, the Chicago Bears and the New Orleans Saints. The Jets - we beat them 20-6. We beat the Saints 25-0 and then 33-0 over the Bears. All eight teams were seeded and we got the #1 seed. We played the Bears again and then we played the Jets. If you win, you move on. If you lose, you're out. And then we ended up facing the Dallas Cowboys regional team. They were also undefeated in pool play. So it brought it to a really good championship game at the end. They were undefeated and we were undefeated."
In the championship game, WASUP found themselves down 13-0 to a Cowboys team that had won three of the previous five years. But the Raiders team fought back. "The girls showed a lot of heart," said Garcia. "They came back and ended up winning it in overtime."
Last year, WASUP advanced to the championship game, only to lose by six to the Canadian Lions team. This year, the Raiders were determined to come away with a victory. "We're big time Raider fans," said Garcia. "We're all into the 'win, lose, or tie, Raiders 'til we die' attitude. It was about representing Oakland, the Raiders. The Commitment to Excellence, that's kind of our thing too."
After defeating the Dallas Cowboys team in the finals, the WASUP Raiders were presented awards at a banquet at Epcot theme park and enjoyed a fireworks show with the other participants. "A lot of the girls were saying that this was an experience they'll never forget," said Garcia. "It was one of the best weekends of their life."
After a fun-filled weekend in Florida that included trips to Animal Kingdom and Epcot theme park, poolside time at the hotel, and, most importantly, six flag football contests, the WASUP Raiders returned to Henderson, Nev., as the NFL FLAG National Champions.
WASUP Raiders team members:
Coach Grace GarciaJordan Chan