High-school has-beens: Flag football popular in Grand Junction
Brady Bledsoe enjoys his summer and fall softball leagues. They allow him to give a recreational extension to his athletic career.
He played football in high school in Nucla.
He and some of his softball buddies from the North Fork area who now live in Grand Junction decided that, in addition to their weekly softball games, they wanted to try another recreational sport.
They play weekly in the Grand Junction Parks and Recreation Department’s fall flag football league at Stocker Stadium.
The program actually has two leagues, a Tuesday night leisure league and a recreational-competitive league that meets on Wednesdays and Thursdays. After beginning the season in August, the league wraps up this week.
As for Bledsoe, whose team plays in the leisure league, he said he enjoys softball but the football league offers a different outlet.
“It’s just a little rowdier than softball,” he said.
It might be a little rowdier, but the atmosphere in the leisure league is still realtively low key.
The field is altered a bit for flag football. Although it’s still 100 yards long, its only 40 yards wide (15 yards narrower than the traditional version).
A ball carrier is considered ‘tackled’ when his flag is pulled or when his knee or elbow hits the ground.
Teams get a first down when they advance the ball 20 yards.
Instead of a kickoff after a touchdown, teams take over at their own 20-yard line.
A point-after conversion is worth one point if teams try from the 2-yard line, two points if they try from the 8-yard line.
Players cannot leave their feet when advancing the ball, and every player is an eligible receiver.
The Grand Junction Peace Officers Association has fielded a team in the recreation league for a number of years, as much for the bonding experience as anything.
Although the team members requested anonymity (several work in high-risk units), they cited the chance to go out and have fun once a week as the main reason for playing.
“The camaraderie is nice, not only with our team but between teams,” said one team member.
“I’m glad they have something like this out here,” said Jesse Epperson, a member of the Off in the Corner team.
Several members of Off in the Corner are from Parachute and played football for Grand Valley High School against Bledsoe and the Paonia players in high school.
“For me this brings out memories,” Epperson said.
“It’s nothing but high-school has-beens,” joked Justin Busch, another Off in the Corner member.
Epperson said he did have to change his mentality going from tackle football to the flag variety, especially in the recreation league.
“It’s a big adjustment for sure,” Epperson said.
As for Busch, even on a low-key level, “For me, it’s just competing,” he said.
The league has one big drawing point.
“Just playing under the lights (at Stocker Stadium) is fun,” Epperson said.
It gives “washed-up dudes” like Bledsoe a chance to relive a little glory, albeit at a recreational level, one night each week.