‘It’s super fun’: Flag football season kicks off in Winnipeg – the biggest one yet

At Maple Grove Rugby Park on Saturday, thousands of young flag football players hit the field for their first games of the season. Joanne Roberts has the story.

With time winding down on the clock and staring defeat in the face, quarterback Campbell Simpson launched one towards the end zone.

And when Grayson Wiebe caught the ball and broke the goal line, it was a moment of pure elation.

No, it may not have been the Grey Cup in the balance, but that didn’t matter to the young players on the field.

Left to right: Cai Williams, Grayson Wiebe, Campbell Simpson and Sebastian Ferrito celebrate a touchdown after their first game. (Nick Johnston, CityNews)

“Really happy that we got that touchdown at the end, it was pretty amazing,” Campbell told CityNews.

“Last play… you can’t really put it into words.”

The last-ditch victory was the perfect end to the opening game of the season for the “Chili Peppers” – one of 200 teams playing in the Winnipeg Blue Bombers Futures Flag Football League this year.

The 2024 spring season kicked off with players aged six to 17 hitting the field at the Maple Grove Rugby Park on Saturday. The league says its popularity has grown 31 per cent this past year alone – from 1,600 players in 2023 to 2,100 in 2024.

“Everybody was really fun, and just we’re excited to be here,” Chili Peppers defensive coach Carter Gillam said.

“Great defence today, for sure,” added head coach Ben Muise.

Defensive coach Carter Gillam (left) stands alongside head coach Ben Muise (right) at the flag football season kick-off. (Nick Johnston, CityNews)

Muise says his team is still working on their routes and defence, but they’re looking forward to seeing what the rest of the season will bring.

“It’s high speed, anything can happen, so it’s pretty exciting,” he said.

“It’s super fun and you get to know different people,” added player Sebastian Feritto.

Already growing in popularity, flag football will reach a global audience in just a few years; the sport is being included in the Olympic Games beginning in 2028 in L.A.

“I think it’s really good,” said Gillam. “I think that tackle would be a little tough to implement, but flag is just a really fun sport that anybody can do.”

Winnipeg Blue Bombers Futures kicked off its spring flag football season April 27, 2024, at Maple Grove Rugby Park in Winnipeg. (Joanne Roberts, CityNews)

In the meantime, the Chili Peppers players were still buzzing from their opening-day victory.

“Getting that touchdown at the end by my friend, Grayson,” Cai Williams said of his highlight of the day.

Though Grayson may have been celebrating for a different reason on a sunny but chilly Winnipeg afternoon.

“Good,” he said when the game was over. “‘Cause it’s all cold and stuff.”

The Manitoba Football Chili Peppers team does a final group huddle after the game. (Nick Johnston, CityNews)

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers Futures Flag Football League – a joint venture between the Winnipeg Football Club and Football Manitoba – features 200 teams, 450 coaches and 120 officials.

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