Last year a group of friends from Old Union, Carroll and Rockenbaugh, who played against each other in the Dragon Youth Flag Football Super Bowl in 2012 came together to compete in the City of Southlake Parks and Recreation 8U and under flag football league. In 2013 the team saw success coming in 2nd place in the Southlake Championship and 3rd in Texas Amateur Athletic Federation (T.A.A.F.) State Championship as 6-7 year olds. With great enthusiasm and expectations the team stayed together for the 2014 season with one goal in mind, Win State.
Fueled by the 2013 state tournament experience Head Coach and Offensive Coordinator, Greg Jackson, threw out last year’s playbook in favor of a more aggressive passing attack. Coach Jackson was able to incorporate his speed oriented rushing attack into a spread offense that utilized every position as receivers. With a running game that can get to the outside led by Sam Fuller and Owen Smith and new passing options for quarterbacks Caden Jackson and Graham Knowles the offense thrived. Receivers Jake Jimenez, Mathias O’Donnell and Hogan Bryan gave defensive backs headaches all season with their ability to stretch the field while interior receivers and guards Mitchell Miranda and Bo Terry provided key run and pass protection while opening up the middle of the field with underneath pass routes. However, this high powered offense that put up a combined 261 points in the Southlake league could not have had the success it did without solid play from their center and interior pass receiver Robbie Hanson. From the first offensive snap (a 60 yard touchdown) to the last drive this well-oiled high powered offense could not be stopped.
While points are key especially in flag football the saying “Defense wins championships” was never truer than with this year’s Dragons. Defensive Coordinator Nick Smith stayed with his base defensive alignment. However, having been with Coach Jackson and these player throughout this journey he challenged them to adjust at the line and installed a zone defense allowing the Dragons to cover more ground and rely on team defense and closing speed. With stellar edge play by cornerbacks Owen Smith and Sam Fuller gaining the edge on the ground or with swing passes was something no team managed all season. The middle was just as tough. With an outside in speed rushers defensive linemen Mitchell Miranda and Bo Terry flushed opposing runners into the open arms of defensive ends Mathias O’Donnell and Jake Jimenez. When teams turned to the pass they were met by incredible safety play by Graham Knowels, Caden Jackson and Hogan Bryan. All five of the defensive backs had had multiple interceptions with Graham Knowles, Sam Fuller and Owen Smith having pick 6’s. As a floater on defense, Robbie Hanson, provided stellar rush and passing defense throughout the season whether at defensive line or safety. In nine games, including the Southlake Championship, the Dragons held opposing offenses to six points. Giving up their only touchdown in the closing seconds of the first half in the Southlake Championship.
After winning the Southlake Championship it was off to the T.A.A.F State Championship in San Angelo, Tx. The Dragons were matched against eleven other teams from a combination of San Angelo, Greenville, El Paso, Stephenville and Copperas Cove. With getting out to a fast start in the double elimination format on their minds the Dragons defeated the El Paso Stars 27-0 with all players getting into the action on the ground and through the air. Getting the first game under their belt and with confidence building the Dragons defeated the Greenville Tarheels in Round 2, 26-0. With rounds 1 and 2 complete the Dragons would face other undefeated City Champions in subsequent rounds. In the 8:00pm game with temperatures starting to drop and wind picking up the Dragons set the table for the Sunday run by defeating the Copperas Cove Bears 33-0. Dragons scored 2 touchdowns in the closing seconds of the first half on a punt return by Caden Jackson and a long run by Sam Fuller to seal the victory and put the game out of reach. The victory over Copperas Cove put the Dragons in the semi-final round against the San Angelo Titans on Sunday.
The Dragons woke to a frozen tundra with a wind chill in the 20’s and stout 15-20mph wind. Assistant Coach and Head Scout Andy Fuller used the weather to the Dragons advantage ensuring at the coin flip that the Dragons would always have the wind at their back. The Dragons scored early on a Mathias O’Donnell touchdown catch to go up 7-0. The Titans threatened in the first half but solid team defense kept them out of the end zone on 4th and 18 ending the drive at the 3. The Dragons kept the Titans from crossing mid-field the rest of the game and added a second touchdown on a catch and run by Graham Knowles vaulting them into the championship game.
After getting a break from the cold and waiting for the winner of the elimination game between Greenville Mustangs and San Angelo Titans the Dragons again braved the elements under colder temperatures and threat of snow to take on the Titans in the Championship. The Dragons scored in the first half on a QB Keeper by Caden Jackson. The Titans with restored confidence from their victory semi-final elimination game did cross mid-field and got as deep as the 18 before the defense pushed them back across the 20 in 4 plays. The Championship was sealed with a 6-0 victory on the last play of the game when Sam Fuller intercepted the Titans.
Through the 2014 8U Flag Football State Championship campaign the Dragons went 14-0 outscoring their opponents 367-6. Congratulation’s Texas Amateur Athletic Federation (T.A.A.F.) 8U Flag Football State Champions: Caden Jackson, Sam Fuller, Bo Terry, Graham Knowles, Owen Smith, Mitchell Miranda, Robbie Hanson, Hogan Bryan, Mathias O’Donnell, and Jake Jimenez.