The Whistler Saints didn't quite reach heaven on the scoreboard in their first game, but you couldn't tell from the players' reactions.
The Saints, making their North Vancouver Spring Flag Football League debut on Saturday, fell 7-6 in overtime to the Seahawks.
Head coach Ralph Forsyth, a longtime member of Whistler's football scene, helped out with Squamish's team, which included some Whistler representation, last season.
This year, he found it was worthwhile to create a new Whistler entry and found 15 eager players to take the field in the 32-team bantam (ages 11 and 12) division.
"We recruited a lot of kids from soccer, and a lot of kids I had coached when they were younger," Forsyth said. "The great thing about this team, too, is there are lots of new kids that had never played football before, so it's really fun."
The league is designed to appeal to busy families, as Forsyth noted many of the players also play soccer. The team practices once a week, whereas tackle football teams generally train three times a week.
Forsyth, who has coached both flag and tackle football, lauded the league for its inclusive efforts.
"(In tackle football), sometimes the atmosphere can be pretty intense for kids and they're afraid or they're intimidated," he said. "(In this league), the emphasis is on friendship and fun."
With many parents concerned about the issue of concussions in tackle football, Forsyth noted flag football has exploded in recent years as a lower-contact alternative.
"I don't think kids need to play tackle until at least high school," he said. "I've coached little kids in tackle football but I feel the same way — why are they even hitting each other at this stage? This really develops their skills as athletes and for Whistler kids, it's great, because we have fast, athletic kids here so they can excel in this sport."
In Saturday's debut, Scott Aiken recorded an interception for the Saints' lone touchdown to earn game MVP honours, while Marcus Goegun (interception) and Leif Gascoigne (sack) also propped up the defence. With the game on the line, Forsyth said the Saints opted against trying to take a tie and went for a two-point conversion after Aiken's score.
"We went for the win," he said. "It was intense. It was a nailbiter."
The season runs until June 25.
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