Feeding the program: Concord High starts after school flag football with high hopes

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  • Drayden Nyambo runs through the defense during their flag football practice at Rundlettt Middle School last Thursday. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Devin Rivera (right) tries to grab the flag as Henry Elliott runs at their flag football practice at Rundlett Middle School

  • Oliver Richert (left) catches the ball as Camden Carbone tries to bat it away during their flag football practice.

  • Oliver RIchert gets an award for the day from Concord High School assistant principal James Corkum after their flag football practice at Rundlett Middle School on Thursday, May 5, 2022. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Drayden Nyambo gets a tee shirt from Concord High School assistant principal James Corkum after their flag football practice at Rundlett Middle School on Thursday, May 5, 2022. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Noah Chrabolowski catches a ball as Max Banch(back left), Chad LaRiviere and Jaxon Carter defend at their flag football practice at Rundlett Middle School on Thursday, May 5, 2022. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Marcus Day and Noah Chrabolowski give chase as Jackson Gfroerer avoids them at their flag football practice at Rundlett Middle School on Thursday. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 5/11/2022 4:20:15 PM

Oliver Richert planted his left foot six yards away from the makeshift line of scrimmage, gave an unintentional head fake inside toward the middle of the field and proceeded to cut right flat along the field for a simple out route.

Richert’s crisp route earned him a reception and he turned up field with the ball snugged between his forearm and chest. He slipped past a defender as he gained ground and neared the line to gain before his yellow flag was pulled from his waist.

“I’m the big O,” he yelled tauntingly to the opposing defense with a grin on his face but a seriousness in his eyes.

That was one of many plays Richert, an eighth grader at Rundlett Middle School, made in the start-up flag football after school program. He and many of his future teammates have started to spend their afternoons on the field behind Rundlett playing in low-contact football games. Teams wear either crimson or white jerseys and rotate between fields to play against one another. And the teams are equipped with their own acting coaches – players on Concord High’s varsity team.

Concord’s flag football program, which is for any middle schooler in the Concord School District, has a two-folded purpose: one, get kids playing and interested in football, two, build a sense of comradery with the current varsity players and stoke the future of the program.

“It’s pretty nice to play with everyone and to see the high schoolers,” Richert said. “Just to see who I’m going to be playing with next year and I get to play with all my friends so that’s a benefit.”

While there aren’t formal practice periods as if it were a high school two-a-day, the hour and a half sessions have structure. The kids will stretch and then go through some routine, fundamental drills like holding the ball and recovering fumbles. They’ve also begun to learn and practice the same wide receiver route tree that’s ran by the Crimson Tide so the soon-to-be freshmen will have a leg up once summer passing leagues start toward the end of June.

The fun part? The games.

It’s essentially an organized game of backyard football. Students run as far down field as they can looking for the big play, others stay close to the quarterback and wait for the easier throw so they can make up ground between them and the defense. Despite the lack on contact, the games get competitive.

“Hold the ball high and tight!”

“I got you!”

“Touchdown!”

It’s a good mix of trash talk and congratulating each other after a big play – which is exactly what good teammates do.

In three months, Jim Corkum will start his second year at the helm of the Tide’s football program and he’s already had a busy offseason. Not only has he tried recruiting in the hallways at Concord High for new players, he’s also made trips to Rundlett throughout the year showcasing the positives of football in an attempt to have kids give it a go.

“I’ve made no bones about it, I’ve said to them I want to see every single one of them playing football for us one day,” Corkum said. “This was a really good opportunity to do something that’s fun.”

Another thing Corkum noticed is the bonding between between the middle schoolers and the varsity football players.

“Coming from middle school to high school can be a little intimidating, and especially to say ‘I’m going to try and play high school football when I’ve never played before’ is even more intimidating,” Corkum said. “For them to at least come out and get to know us and for us to get to know them and make relationships, and for them to get to make relationships with the players, they’ll realize they’d like to come out and play football.”

Zack Doward is one of those high school students who’s already enjoyed seeing the next generation of Concord football players get to know one another and take the field long before those summer practices begin. A senior quarterback, Doward will be a three-year starter under center for the Tide this fall and while his primary focus is to make sure his last go for the Tide is successful, it’s a secondary mission to leave the program better than he found it.

“Starting now and learning at a younger age from the coaches and the players, it’s going to take this (program) far,” he said. “Even if it’s just flag, you’re going to learn from kids that have been playing for 10-plus years, I wish I had something like this.”

“There are some kids out here who definitely give me hope for the future of the program.”

It’s kids like Richert and Drayden Nyambo who instill that hope into Doward and others. Those lunchtime pleas at the middle school from Corkum have worked and the purpose of the league has so far worked too. Nyambo had little experience with organized football but won last week’s Player of the Week award amongst the entire eighth grade class.

“It feels amazing,” he said. “It feels like someone believes in me.”

The Crimson Tide can’t begin their formal practices until Aug. 12 and games won’t start until Sept. 1, but they’re starting with something now.

One play at a time.


Matt Parker bio photo

Matt Parker is a sports reporter at the Monitor and started in August 2021. He is an Ohio native and relishes being from the Buckeye state. A proud graduate of Ohio University located in Athens, Ohio, he served as the sports editor for the student-run newspaper, The Post, from 2019-20. When not at a game or chasing around a coach, you can catch him playing his guitars or looking for the next Peanuts memorabilia piece to add in his growing collection.



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