THIRD TIME’S A CHARM: The Union claims rec-league flag football championship (VIDEO) | TheUnion.com

THIRD TIME’S A CHARM: The Union claims rec-league flag football championship (VIDEO)

Editor's note: Let me first say, I already know how self indulgent this is and, no, I didn't think twice about writing it. I run stories on Nevada County Adult Sports Association championship teams regularly and across multiple sports. The difference this time is I am a member of the championship squad and the team was sponsored by The Union. I do promise not to embellish the facts or hype the game up too much.

Of all the underdog stories in all of sports throughout history, this may be the greatest.

I'm off to a bad start. Allow me to start over and tone this down a bit.

After multiple disappointing losses in the title game, years of gut-wrenching gridiron woe, The Union flag football team finally broke through and claimed the championship it had long sought.

Competing on a crisp Saturday afternoon at Western Gateway Park, The Union battled back from an early deficit to topple three-time defending league champ, and the previously unbeaten, Team Brooke, 27-25, in the 2018 Nevada County Adult Sports Association flag football championship game.

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It was the third straight season in which The Union (7-5) and Team Brooke (11-1) were the last two teams standing. But unlike the previous two bouts, it was the gritty, slightly over-the-hill group from The Union that left the field with the coveted "NCASA Champs" T-shirts.

"We really wanted that free cotton," The Union receiver Walter Ford said before rattling off a list of sports clichés. "It was a true team effort. We left it all out on the field. We all gave 110 percent. Everyone stepped up when they needed to. It was the last game of the season so we didn't hold anything back. We trusted the game plan. The coaches put us in a position to succeed. Third time was the charm. David beat Goliath today, and to quote Kevin Garnett 'anything is possible.'"

The Union trailed Team Brooke 13-6 early on, but tied the contest just before halftime and grabbed the game's momentum.

Riding the strong arm of quarterback Matt Reiswig, The Union jumped ahead 20-13 early in the second half.

The two rivals then traded touchdowns and The Union led 27-19 with a little more than 6 minutes left.

Team Brooke, led by quarterback Dylan Brooke, drove the length of the field and reached pay dirt, pulling to within 27-25 with 3 minutes left.

With the game on the line, Team Brooke went for the two-point conversion, but The Union's defense stood tall and forced an incompletion. The Union offense then ran out the clock and several men ranging in age from 22 to 45 were able to reaffirm "they still got it."

"We have the utmost respect for them," Ford said of Team Brooke before continuing his barrage of clichés. "We brought our A-games today. We wouldn't be denied. We have really good team chemistry. We took care of business and played our game. It's a game of inches. It took blood, sweat and tears. Defense wins championships. And, hi mom."

Reiswig was precise throughout, connecting on four touchdown passes with no interceptions. Ford was on the receiving end of two of those scoring tosses. Austin Dowling and Scott Coffey each had touchdown catches as well. Also contributing on offense was Steve Lime and Joe Cotney with big grabs throughout.

The Union's defense was led by Coffey's unparalleled flag snatching ability as well as strong secondary play by Tommy Paone, Brandon O'Callaghan, Dowling and Lime. O'Callaghan had the team's lone interception, thwarting a deep drive by Team Brooke in the second half.

Supplying the pressure was the dynamic pass rushing duo of Lokasio Ikinasio Veimau and Don Huntsman, who hounded Team Brooke's quarterback relentlessly all game.

Leading Team Brooke on the offensive end was Ben Brooke with two touchdowns. Tino Sanchez-Lane and Mike Meyer also had TD catches.

For The Union, the championship seemed unlikely after starting the season 2-5 overall. But The Union found its stride down the stretch, winning its final three games of the regular season to finish 5-5 and grab the No. 3 seed in the playoffs. The Union then beat No. 2 seed Revolution, 35-19, in the semifinals, getting four touchdowns from Cotney and another from Brent Hudson, to earn their spot in the title game.

Team Brooke went undefeated in the regular season and topped No. 5 seed Old Goats, 41-27, in the other semifinal.

Registration for Nevada County Adult Sports Association's spring sports is currently open. The NCASA volleyball and basketball leagues get started the week of March 4, team registration is due by Feb. 15.

Volleyball will include a 4-on-4 coed league. Cost per team is $300 and games are played on Wednesday evenings.

Basketball leagues will include five tiers (A, B1, B2, C and 40-years and older), and the cost per team is $450. All games are played at the Grass Valley Veterans Memorial Building.

For more information, contact Rich Ramirez at 530-575-9142.

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email wford@theunion.com.

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