Flag on the play

The first year of the All Star Youth Flag Football League is in the books, and the hope is to grow the league even bigger.

Runnin’ with Ryan: The All Star Youth Flag Football League held its championship games on Sunday at Archbishop Ryan. The league included more than 200 children, ages 5 to 13. JOHN COLE / TIMES PHOTO

In the spring, Sundays are for flag football at Archbishop Ryan High School, 11201 Academy Road.

This past Sunday, the inaugural season of the “All Star Youth Flag Football League” wrapped up with its championship game on the George J. Todt Field.

The co-ed league with four different age groups, ranging from kids as young as 5 to as old as 13, was just an idea that was hatched earlier this year that became a league with 200-plus kids.

Just a couple of months ago, Archbishop Ryan head football coach Frank McArdle was contacted by several members of different local youth organizations about the prospect of starting a league on a neutral location like Ryan.

McArdle had to coordinate with the administration at Ryan to find out how they could best accommodate the number of teams and field time available that would not directly interfere with the high school athletics that take place at Ryan.

“How do we utilize these 35 acres and take full advantage of them,” said Archbishop Ryan president Michael Barnett. “I think it’s events like this where you have a couple hundred kids every Sunday with their families,…. it was a very positive atmosphere.”

The teams started by holding a couple of practices at Ryan months ago at the beginning of the season before hitting the field to play games. The youth organizations that reached out to Ryan to take the lead in forming the league were Fox Rok, Liberty Bell, Somerton, and Calvary.

McArdle had hoped that the league could muster up 100–150 local kids, but was more than happy to see 200-plus kids from as far up as Somerton to down to Oxford Circle participate in the league.

“It’s a great way to get kids involved with the sport,” said McArdle. “…They’re in a team atmosphere, they’re actually running plays… it’s a great way to introduce them and let them see how much fun it is.”

He specifically credited the work of Ed Trampe, Liberty Bell’s football director, Rich Gear, of Calvary A.A., and Kevin Boyle, who has been involved with Calvary and Ryan athletics, for helping run the operation.

One of the earliest people to contact McArdle about the prospects of the new league was Amanda Dilchus, who has helped run the show since the beginning.

Dilchus had been involved with coaching youth cheerleading in the past, but seeing the girls play in the league has been a particularly memorable part of the inaugural season.

“My favorite thing is having the girls play with the boys…,” said Dilchus. “It gives them the opportunity to show everyone what they really got.”

Dilchus believes about half of the league participates in organized football in the fall, but that still didn’t deter other kids from giving flag football a shot.

Linda Rehfuss has two boys in the league in different age groups who are playing flag football for the first time and says they have enjoyed every game.

“To come up here on a Sunday and see everyone pulling out their chairs and enjoying the kids, enjoying the day,” said Rehfuss. “It was a good day.”

The coaches for the league are parents from numerous youth organizations, and McArdle estimates that about 20 current Ryan football players are either coaching or officiating in the league.

Barnett, an alum of Ryan, played football while he attended high school and being at the fields on Sundays brings him back to his days as a Raider.

“It takes me back to my childhood,” said Barnett. “Those Saturdays were really centered around the fields and the games, it takes me back to being a kid.”

Despite exceeding expectations for their first year, those involved are optimistic that the league will only improve from here.

“We have the potential to grow,” said Dilchus. “I’m really excited to see what next year holds because this was a learning year and we learned a lot.” ••