CHAPMANVILLE — When the high school and college football careers are over for the multitudes of area players and you still have the itch to play what do you do?
You can toss the football around the back yard.
Most of the time, though, the love of the game puts the “retired” players in front of the TV, watching college and NFL games on weekends.
But Thomas Dillon and Brian Kirkendoll had an idea.
Why not form your own league?
That’s exactly what has went on in recent months as many area players came together and jumpstarted the Chapmanville Flag Football League.
The CFFL recently wrapped up its inaugural season as the Zach Belcher and Brian Kirkendoll teams met in the championship game as the Kirkendolls took the crown with a 28-27 victory over Belcher’s 07 team in a fierce battle at the Scott High School football field.
The season was completed recently before the arctic cold and January snows hit southern West Virginia.
The season started back on Nov. 8 and the first four games were played at Chapmanville’s Mullens Athletic Complex on Sawmill Road. The next three games were played on Scott’s Field Turf. The playoffs continued until Jan. 5 with the championship game being played under the lights at Scott.
The players came from Chapmanville, Scott, Logan and surrounding areas and the league was a big success. Some current seniors and other players also played in the league.
“Life is much better off the couch,” Dillon said. “It all came about by Brian Kirkendoll and myself. We were sitting around one day reminiscing about playing in the 80s and 90s and we came to the conclusion that there is a need for adult sports activities. Mayor Jerry Price from Chapmanville was on board and it took off. Mayor Price gave us the go-ahead to use the Sawmill field.”
The league got a late start in November put there was no shortage of young men in the their 20s and 30s who wanted to play again — even if it were minus the pads and helmets in the flag football format.
“It was late in the year but the interest was high,” Dillon said. “In a week, we had nine teams at first. We set up a quick schedule, developed rules and created a board, got flags and off it went. Each week we have had around 130 athletes from around the area. Plus their families, girlfriends, kids and friends came to watch.”
The fledgling CFFL even drew the interest of State Senator Art Kirkendoll, a big football fan in his own right.
“I enjoyed it. I could be sitting on my sofa watching the NFL but watching these young men compete is very entertaining,” he said.
Dillon said the league was a positive experience for all.
“Many people can compete at a high level way into their 30s and even their 40s,” he said. “I think they had a lot of fun and created a healthy and competitive lifestyle for people out of school who still have the athleticism to play in a fun sport.”
Players Danny Halley and Michael Belcher said they had a great time.
“It was great,” Belcher said. “We had a dismal senior season and playing for a championship against adults and coaches we revere, made our senior year complete.”
Nick Mullins, a member of Zach Belcher’s squad, said playing in the league was fun.
“I’m not at all happy we lost, but it was a great league and we are going to come to the spring league ready to regain our crown,” Mullins said. “I look around and see these great players and wonder what an all-star team we could have against other people from the northern part of the state.”
Mullins played on last year’s Boone County Flag Football team and his team won the championship with an 11-0 record.
John Toler and Tyler Thompson came all the way from Fairmont to play in the league.
“We are playing against our peers and we are trying to get in better shape for these contests. I came from Fairmont to play and it’s great for getting me in shape for my senior season for the Falcons of Fairmont State,” Thompson said.
Andy Dolan, the ex-mayor of Madison, came to watch the CFFL championship game as well.
“I walk the track every day and I’ve seen these different groups of men come to play ball. But Sunday’s game was different. You would have thought they were playing for a state title from the degree of competition that was displayed,” Dolan said. “There were fans in the stands. There were kids watching their high school and previous high school heroes and a host of all-state and college talent to enjoy. There isn’t a lot for the kids and young adults to do. I respect Greg Dillon for using his imagination to create things that put positive energy into the county. To tie in both counties is unheard of without drama. Kudos to them.”
Dillon said he enjoyed the whole experience.
“I enjoyed this a lot,” he said. “We got to meet some great people and watch some wonderful athletes. Nick Mullins is a class act. Aaron Amburgy brings his effervescent attitude, his family and a host of skilled athletes to the table. Brandon Wells, Tim Ball and William Vance and his son never missed a game and was full of energy. Cameron Loftis, Mike Belcher and Danny Halley are great kids that needed closure on a disappointing season and they got it.”
In the championship game, clutch catches by former Chapmanville players Joey Stevens and Zach Belcher put the 07 team on the board. Belcher ended up scoring on a bubble screen and slant pass to make it 14-0.
The Kirkendolls then tied it at 14 with two Michael Belcher to Brian Kirkendoll TD passes and extra points. A great defensive play by Cody Loftis against Stevens that resulted in Loftis getting a busted nose, stopped the first half scoring.
The second half started out with wild runs by Michael Belcher and Loftis from the combined Kirkendolls Scott/Chapmanville team. There were big gains but no scores.
Michael Belcher then dove over the top at the goal line over Zach Belcher and Jon Casto for a 6-yard TD to put the Kirkendolls on top 20-14.
The 07 team then went ahead 21-20 with a 67-yard TD pass to Zach Belcher on a fourth-and-17 play from the 33-yard line with 5:37 left in the game. Stevens caught the conversion pass.
The momentum was swinging toward the 07 team as the constant pressure from bulldozer lineman John Toler and Co., kept Kirkendoll running for his life and not getting into the flow.
Yet, it was the clutch fourth down catches and runs by Halley from Scott High School that set the tone for the evening’s greatest plays.
Halley took a slant and went to the sideline, then cut back inside and then with a second effort made it to the 43 for a first down.
Led by Tanner Dillon and Loftis and the clutch running by Michael Belcher on critical third and fourth down conversions, as well as the trench warfare offensive blocking from Thompson and Tyler Brewster, aka the “Twin Towers,” sealed the deal for the Kirkendolls team.
The game would go down to the wire.
Halley eventually scored on a 32-yard pass from Brian Kirkendoll with 1:48 left. The critical play on the extra point conversion was a 10-yard pass to Tyler Brewster who looked like he was going to go in untouched until Zach Belcher met him with a crushing hit. It was a penalty and a unanimous call from both referees. It was ruled he had broken the plane. When the dust cleared it was 28-21 in favor of the Kirkendolls.
The 07 team, led by QB Todd Terry, then fought back.
Terry selectively threaded the ball down the field with skilled time and field management. Chris Davis went for 6, 12 and 8 yards and a pass to Stevens went for 16 more yards.
Another pass to Stevens was stopped short by Cox.
It looked like the game was over until a ref snafu ruled it was third down instead of fourth.
New life was given.
With seven seconds left and no timeouts Terry hit Davis in the back of the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown pass to cut it to 28-27.
Terry and the 07 team went for two and the win instead of the tie to force overtime.
Terry scrambled and fired to Toler at the goal line but the conversion was broken up by Michael Belcher and the game was over.
The Kirkendolls took a knee to seal the win.
Zach Belcher, a current Chapmanville Regional assistant coach, had 14 catches, three TDs and three extra point grabs to earn MVP honors in the championship game.
The league MVPs were Nick Mullins and Michael Belcher of Boone County.
The Kirkendolls team went 6-3 during the regular season. Belcher’s 07 team was 5-4. The Nick Mullins team of Charleston was 7-1, while the Brandon Wells team of Logan was 1-6.
Four other teams played in the league: the Tim Kirk National Guard team of Charleston; the Logan team, the police team and the seniors team. All were 0-6.
In the quarterfinal round of the playoffs, the Kirkendolls won 76-28 over the Wells team and the Belcher 07 team won 35-33 over the Kirk squad. The Mullins and Amburgey teams received byes.
In the semifinals, the Kirkendolls won 40-38 over the Mullins team and the Belcher team won 35-31 over the Amburgey squad.
Dillon said the Sawmill field has great potential. It has been used in recent years mostly for area youth soccer.
“It’s our hope to have other leagues spring up around the area to gravitate toward a good social environment, healthy lifestyle and diverse sports,” Dillon said. “The Sawmill field offers a host of possibilities. Flag football and soccer are a small scenario of what could be introduced. Mixed men and women’s softball in the summer, pee-wee flag league, midget league football, rugby, lacrosse, fishing, outdoor basketball, outdoor volleyball, horseshoes, or church outdoor activities could also go on here. It has limitless potential.”
Dillon said the flag football league plans on having a spring league beginning in April.