The kids were back on the gridiron this weekend as the Guam National Youth Football Federation kicked off its 10th season. This year, the GNYFF will feature nine club teams in four divisions of play from ages 4 to 6 flag football to three divisions of tackle for those athletes ages 7 to 15.
“Getting the kids all excited to play and out on the field” is the best part about the opening weekend of play, said Ivan Shiroma, the GNYFF president.
The little tykes in the Mandikiki 4-6 flag football division kicked off the season on Sunday at the Hal Shiroma Football Field in Dededo, with the Windward Memorial Hal’s Angels playing host to the Guahan Eagles. The Angels overpowered the Eagles behind three touchdowns from Talan Cruz to clip the Eagles 4-2 in the season opener.
Cruz wasted little time breaking off two long runs to give the Angels the early lead. With solid blocking up front, Cruz was able to get around the corner virtually untouched on both runs.
The Eagles cut the deficit in half with a score late in the first half scramble by quarterback Caleb Guzman from 25 yards out.
The Angels made it 3-1 with a beautiful 50-yard kickoff return by Riley Murakami, who found the seam up the gut for the Angels’ third score of the game.
The Eagles continued to peck away, cutting the lead to 3-2 on a nice run by Zeige Nauta, who followed his blockers and got around the right corner, outrunning the Angels defense to the end zone for the score.
A long 40-yard run by Rio Reyes up the sideline got the Eagles within striking distance early in the fourth quarter, but the Angels defense held strong and forced the Eagles turnover on downs to help secure the win.
Cruz tacked on his third touchdown of the game to stretch the lead to 4-2 just before the final whistle. “I’m fast,” laughed Talan when asked how he managed to score three touchdowns.
The best part about football is “running the ball,” said 6-year-old Cruz, who is already a veteran in the Mandikiki division.
“The reason why I like coaching the young kids is for the development of the game,” said Rico Concepcion, Mandikiki Angels head coach. “It’s an early stage for the kids, but if you teach them young and they have fun, they will keep playing.”
With many of the kids playing for the first time in a game, Mandikiki Eagles head coach Bo Calvo acknowledged it was good to get the kids on the field.
“We were a little bit nervous but once they started the game, the nerves went away,” Calvo said. “The kids had fun and played good.”