On August 31st NuOla held its inaugural flag football tournament in Calderdale Halifax.
12 teams from around the UK arrived at sunny but breezy Inspire Centre, Calderdale Collage between 8 and 9am.
The hosts of the tournament were the NuOla kitted BAFA team Calderdale Knights, led by Craig Henry who founded the team and team mate Simon Cutts who arranged the facilities for the day.
After setting up our NuOla base camp, with wind playing a devilish part, the 12 teams who had been previously drawn into 3 groups of 4 began their fixtures and play commenced.
On pitch 1 we had the hosts Calderdale Knights first up against the Sheffield Vipers led by Geordie Mike Sullivan, who also had NuOla owners Rudi Halfmann and Neil Wymer playing for them on the day. The marquee team in group 1 were BAFA Coventry Jets, led by Steve Prodmore, who the next weekend would be travelling up to Motherwell to take part in the BAFA flag finals. They would go onto finish 4th at BAFA flag finals, creating history as Jennifer Cooper would become the first female to throw a completion on flag finals day. Also in this group were the dark horses Jack Martin Juggernauts, based in Warwick, led by David Boyles, Jennifer’s boyfriend. This would later create an added spice to proceedings in group 1.
On pitch 2 were the NuOla kitted BAFA team Newcastle Blackhawks, led by Alan Bartholomew, first up against the Coventry Cougars who fielded a team with mixed gender and ages all under 20 years old! They were led by Millie Barrett who is instrumental in the Woman GB flag set up. Also in group 2 were the brand new NuOla kitted flag team the Mansfield Honey Badgers who were making they’re debut in competitive fixtures. They would be exciting to watch as the players mostly have full contact experience and were led by Charlie Patterson. Last but not least were the BAFA team Carluke Cobras who set off at 3.30am from Scotland to take part. In a major coup for NuOla they were led by Alan Young, the head man in BAFA flag football.
Pitch 3 would see NuOla’s first flag customers and one of the BAFA leagues premier teams the Sheffield Steel City Knights, led on the day by GB player Dean Wittingslow. They took on NuOla’s first full contact kitted team the Burnley Tornados, who were making their flag football debut. They would be led by the charismatic John Harvey labelled as the granddad of Tornados football.
NuOlas youth team customers, Chorley Buccaneers, led by Lawrence Quinn were also participating all be it with their senior team. To make it a full compliment were the Huddersfield Hawks kitted team, also making their flag debuts and they would be led by Christopher Atkinston.
After some tight defensive play the Calderdale Knights would take the first win of the day against the Sheffield Vipers 8-6 in group 1, game 1. Game 2 would see the battle of the bedroom! Surprisingly the Jack Martin Juggernauts would win the low scorer 12-2 with Coventry Jets failing to punch it into the endzone!
On Pitch 2 the Newcastle Blackhawks would get of to a flyer against the Coventry Cougars shutting them out 14-0. In game 2 the newly formed Mansfield Honey Badgers would narrowly lose a tight one by 1 point to the Carluke Cobras 12-13.
Pitch 3 would see the first touchdown of the day. Amazingly it was to go to the Burnley Tornados who drove the field to score on the Sheffield Steel City Knights. Sadly for them it would be their only score as the Knights would then shut them out and score 26 pts unanswered. Game 2 saw the strong unit of the Chorley Bucs cruise to victory 14-6 against the Hawks who were missing their quarterback for the day.
Round 2 would see the Juggernauts go 2-0 and become the first team into playoffs as they won out 12-6 on the Calderdale Knights. Game 2 in this round would see a classic! With around a minute left the Jets were losing 14-18! They would drive the field and win the game on the last play 18-20 knocking the Vipers out the playoff spots.
In a tough fought game the Honey Badgers would shut out the Blackhawks 7-0 for their first win of the day. The next game would see the same score for the Scottish team Carluke Cobras over the young Coventry Cougars. Tempers flared in this match up as both teams were penalised for rough play. However both teams shook hands and played on in fine fashion.
Pitch 3 witnessed a shock score line as Chorley Buccaneers put the Steel Knights to the swash buckling sword 14-6. The other game would witness the highest scoring game so far with the exciting quartet led by quarterback Cameron Alex Stewart of Tornados putting the Hawks into a spin with a 25-6 victory.
With playoff hopes hanging in the balance for both the Calderdale Knights and Coventry Jets this one had an edge to it. The well drilled Jets would win the tie 19-8 seeing them eliminate the host team from the finals. The second game would see the Jack Martin Juggernauts somewhat surprisingly take the No1 seed through to the playoffs after a 13-7 over the Sheffield Vipers!
Pitch 2 would see a nervous Newcastle team lose 22-8 to the Cobras, would this push them out of the playoff spots? The last game in this group would see the Honey Badgers safely into the playoffs 19-6. However it did produce one of the more exciting plays of the day, with the final drive of the Cougars, playing an all female line up. This led to their only score of the day and some great celebrating from the Cougars and following fans!
Last group would see the battle of the Lancashire red rose with Chorley shutting out their neighbours Burnley 26-0! Prompting one Tornado to take an early shower thinking they had been eliminated from the playoffs! The end fixture would see the Steel Knights put on a master class with a 33-6 victory over the hapless Hawks and see them comfortably advance to the playoffs!
Having prematurely taken a shower thinking they were out, the Burnley Tornados did actually advance to the playoffs and the No 8 seed via a better record than the Calderdale Knights. This would see the most dramatic events of the day as with 1 minute 30 added onto the game due to an injury timeout due to a Tornado pulling up with a groin injury after intercepting the Juggernauts. Behind, the Tornados threw a Hail Mary with 30 seconds left to get down to the 5 yard line. It was caught, giving them literally seconds to get a play off! They did and the rest was history. They would make it though to the Semi’s 19-14 as the 8th seed beating the No 1 seed! Amazing!
In more of a comfortable victory the Chorley Bucs, who were the No2 seed, would defeat the Newcastle Blackhawks 20-6 advancing them to the semis.
A classic was to take place on pitch 2! Having already met in the group stage the Cobras and Honey Badgers would serve up some real excitement! The final score would see the well travelled Cobras win by a solitary point 21-20 sending home the team to watch out for next year with their heads held up high!
The last game of the Quarters would see a friendly rivalry take place. With Steel City narrowly not advancing to BAFA finals it was an opportunity for them to show the much fancied Coventry Jets what Ravenscraig was missing! The Jets who were missing a number of players for the tournament would be no match for the Knights who would dominate this encounter all game with a fine 26-0 win! Were the Steel Knights now ready to take on the exciting Tornados?
The Semi’s would see Carluke Cobras take on the Chorley Buccaneers for a place in the final. In a hard fought affair the Cobras would shake off their poor BAFA season and stake a claim as the first NuOla Shield winner by winning 7-6. Chorley would go through to the 3rd and 4th playoff!
The second semi created a rematch of the first game in round 1 with Steel Knights playing Burnley Tornados. Exciting as they were, the Tornados just couldn’t muster up enough skill and determination to match the now unstoppable Knights! The Knights would win this semi 32-6! Now looking favourites to win the lot!
In a rematch of the Lancashire red rose this would be a tighter affair. With the scores tied at 6-6 with seconds to go, the Bucs would be travelling home with the bragging rights winning 12-6 on the day! Both teams provided some great play and full credit to both as neither had played flag till the tournament itself!
So to the final, of which would be filmed by American Football TV broadcasters Gridiron TV. Who travelled 5 hours from Scotland to record the final. The first time flag football would be shown on any broadcasting station here in the UK.
So a battle between Scotland and England would see the Carluke Cobras take on the Sheffield Steel City Knights to be crowned the inaugural NuOla Shield winners of 2013!
After a lightning start the Knights dominated the first half with scores from Tim Darracott, Dean Whittingslow and the pocket rocket Josh Allen all scoring touchdowns off the great QB play of Matt Lollar leading to a 27 point advantage. The defence held strong, with a notable interception from MVP candidate Allen, holding the Cobras to 6pts at the half with a 27-6 scoreline.
After the break the Cobras rallied to 19pts from some interesting QB play from Alan Young to bring the game closer, however they were foiled by the defensive play of the day, an amazing one handed interception from Dean Wittingslow late on to seal the victory for the Knights with a winning score of 33-19! The highest score of the day too!
And so to the presentation! The days proceedings had been an all round success with all teams showing up and on time, lots of great plays and scores and more importantly everyone enjoying the game of flag football. Neil Wymer first took to the microphone to present the awards, followed by Rudi Halfmann who then said the many thankyou’s to all concerned.
Passing on the honours were invitee Adam Goldstein the author of “The Tailgate Knight” who presented the MVP awards and Kimmy Madden “The Face Of NuOla” who presented the trophy and winning voucher for £100 off NuOla products.
Josh Allen - For his amazing all round play on both offence and defence in the final Josh received a signed copy of “The Tailgate to Heaven” and a specially designed MVP jersey with all participating teams sublimated onto the pattern.
The inaugural NuOla Trophy, designed as the brands logo, was handed to Dean Wittingslow as he captained the Sheffield Steel City Knights to victory.
And finally after the presentation Dean Wittingslow, Craig Henry and Rudi Halfmann were then interviewed for Gridiron TV..
Many thanks must go to Craig Henry and Simon Cutts and the rest of the Calderdale Knights and the NuOla team for helping get the event off in the first place as well as making everything run smoothly on the day. The Inspire centre is truly a wonderful venue for sporting events!
SportPad provided us with a great software program for displaying the scores etc, and is well worth asking about for your future events.
Thanks to Window Machinery Search for providing us with some financial assistance, as well as the Bromheads and Shade Shiest for providing us with some background music.
Much respect to Gridiron TV for coming down to record the final and to Nick Cockman from Nickscape Photography for taking pictures on the day. The photos can be seen here.
Thanks to Adam Goldstein and Kim Madden for coming to present the awards.
Thanks to the staff at the Sun Inn for their warm hospitality and great food after the game. Well worth a visit if you are in the area.
The final thanks is to all those who attended and made the day a success…see you next year!
Rudi, Neil and Joe