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The Journal Gazette

  • Photos courtesy of Kevin Cogar Two Fort Wayne NFL Flag teams advanced to the national championship tournament this week in Phoenix and will be part of today’s Pro Bowl festivities. The teams qualified at the regional tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Nov. 1.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016 4:35 pm

Flag football season hits apex

Aubree Reichel The Journal Gazette

Kevin Cogar has been coaching NFL Flag Football for the past four years. For three consecutive years, he’s taken teams to the NFL Flag national championship tournament.

This year, Cogar qualified two teams in the 11-12 coed and 13-14 boys divisions.

"I coached two teams last year, but only one of them made it," he said. "Two teams has been really hectic. There are 10 kids on each team with two different practices. So I’m with one team for a two-hour practice then with another team for a two-hour practice. Sometimes the games are at the same times so I have to run back and forth and have assistants helping. It’s rough."

Cogar’s 13-14 boys finished third in last year’s NFL Flag national championship tournament in at AT&T Park in Arlington, Texas.

The teams qualified for the national tournament by winning the regional tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Nov. 1. The Fort Wayne teams beat out teams from Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio and Tennessee.

The teams flew to Phoenix on Saturday and will spend today at the Pro Bowl.

"We have to be at the stadium two hours before the NFL Pro Bowl starts," Cogar said. "The kids have the opportunity of warming up with the Pro Bowl players and they’re holding the flag for the national anthem."

This is the first time the tournament has coincided with the Pro Bowl. Typically, the flag football tournament takes place the week after the Super Bowl.

Cogar said that the tournament is like a business trip for the athletes.

"On Monday and Tuesday, they’re leaving the hotel on a bus at 7 in the morning and not getting back to their rooms until 10 o’clock at night," he said.

Despite the schedule being hectic, Cogar cherishes the bond he’s made with his players and their families.

"I’ve befriended all my players," he said. "I’ve coached some of these kids from when they were 4-6 years old at The Plex and some of them are almost 15, so I’ve known some of these for almost 10 years."

For some of his players, the tournament is their last flag football season.

"When the last game ends," Cogar said, "championship or not, win or lose, this is going to be a celebration."

Pool play for all divisions begins at 9:30 a.m. Monday at Reach 11 Sports Complex in North Phoenix.

The championship games are set for Tuesday in addition to attending the NFL Experience at the Phoenix Convention Center.

NFLFlag.com is providing a live stream of the championship games that are scheduled to start at 3 p.m. Tuesday.

NFL Flag is powered by USA Football, based out of Indianapolis.

In 2014, a record number of 250,000 boys and girls ages 5-17 nationwide participated in NFL Flag. The number is up from 220,000 in 2013.

For more information about Fort Wayne Flag Football, visit www.plexsports.com.

areichel@jg.net