BOARDMAN - Cost of a weekend trip to Florida according to Priceline - $1,174. Cost of a weekend trip to the Sunshine State if you qualified for the NFL FLAG National Tournament of Champions - all expenses paid. Cost of winning a national title - priceless.
Eight local girls -Salem freshmen Rylee and Raegan Meals, fellow Quaker Rylee Leider, South Range's Emily and Sarah Moretti, Columbiana's Baylie Mooks, Medina's Alysaa Acevedo and Poland's Macy Diaz - will have the chance to make that national title dream a reality when they travel to Tampa for the national flag football tournament set for Jan. 14.
The girls, all members of the Youngstown Youth Flag Football Association (YYFFA), punched their free tickets to Orlando by winning the 12-14 girls division at the Cincinnati regional in October. Seven other regional champions will compete in the national tournament.
"We played four games total in Cincinnati," former YSU play maker and YYFFA coach Elliot Giles said." There were four teams in the 12-14 year-old division, and we beat everybody in our pool except Harrisburg, who beat us in overtime."
The two teams with the best record went on to meet in the regional final. That gave Youngstown another shot at the Harrisburg Eagles. Youngstown, who will compete in the NFL FLAG National Tournament as the Cincinnati Bengals, didn't waste the opportunity and turned away the undefeated Pennsylvania team by two touchdowns.
"It was fun to compete against other teams at the regional," Raegan said. "But beating Harrisburg in the championship after they beat us in overtime was pretty cool."
"We ended up beating every team there," he said. "(Harrisburg) got us first, but we won the one that counted and finished 3-1at the regional."
Winning the regional was thrilling, but not exactly surprising. The girls had proven their abilities all season, competing against primarily boy teams in the YYFFA and capturing the 12-14 league championship.
"All season we played against boys," Rylee said. "The regional was the first time we played all girls so we really didn't know what to expect.
But Giles did.
"I knew this team was good," Giles said. "We prepared for the regional by playing all boys. I knew they could compete. They had competed all season against boys. At this age, that's saying a lot."
And winning the league tournament - the girls scored 13 points late in the championship game to prevail 21-20 - says even more.
"They played some teams that had maybe one or two girls on it, but they were the only all-girl team in the league," said Jerry Meals, father to Rylee and Raegan. "Not only did they play the boys, they beat the boys. They won the league championship against basically all boys. You can imagine the boys were not too happy about being losing to girls, but it was fun to watch."
With the regional and league championships in their pockets, all that's left for the girls is a national crown.
"We're looking forward to making the trip and competing in the national tournament," Rylee said. "It's a new experience and it'll be fun no matter what, but hopefully we win it all."
With talent as high as their hopes, the team out of Youngstown just may pull it off.
"These girls are great athletes," Giles said. "They participate in softball, soccer and basketball and flag football has given them another opportunity to compete and compete at a high level. They came together, caught on to flag football and excelled at it. They are very coachable and more than that are very respectful. This team is extension of our league and our league is why this girls are together.
The YYFFA drew 650 players this past season - it's highest numbers to date - and will begin its spring season in March. For more information, call (330) 754-1070, email email@example.com or visit www.yffayouth.net.
E-mail Stephanie Elverd at firstname.lastname@example.org