In the end, Neon outshines Black in Sol Lain opener

A Black team runner turns the corner and heads upfield behind strong blocking by his teammates.   PHOTO BY DANIEL JEAN-LOUBIN
A Black team runner turns the corner and heads upfield behind strong blocking by his teammates. PHOTO BY DANIEL JEAN-LOUBIN

BY DANIEL JEAN-LOUBIN  |  As the Sol Lain flag football league opened another season, Lower East Side athletes gathered on Sat., Oct. 5, at Edward Garcia Field for a defensive slugfest of a game between the Black team and the Neon team.

The Sol Lain Flag Football League was created by community leader Edward Garcia as a way to help at-risk local youth.

“Eddie tried to offer a positive influence to the lives of the kids in the neighborhood,” said Marilu Garcia, his sister.

Today, the co-ed league fields four teams, with about 50 kids total, ages 10 to 15.

The first half of the game began with the Black team marching down the field and scoring on their opening drive with a touchdown pass to one of their shifty wide receivers to make it 6-0.

The ensuing kickoff to Neon, however, did not produce the same result, as they failed to gain any kind of yardage and were forced to punt after three downs.

With the ball back in the Black team’s hands, and with great field position, Black looked primed to tally another score, thanks in part to a big gain by their speedy running back. At the goal line, though, Neon made two key stops on a pair of pass plays, and on third down, a seeming touchdown was called back by the referee due to an offensive holding penalty. The Black team could not convert and gave up possession.

On Neon’s next possession, an underthrown pass was intercepted by Black’s quarterback, who also plays cornerback on defense. But on the game’s very next play, Black’s Q.B., under pressure, threw a floater up into double coverage that was picked off and run back for the game-tying touchdown to end the half knotted at 6-6.

After a deep touchdown pass for the Black team opened up the second half to make it 12-6, both sides’ offensive struggles continued for most of the rest of the game.

With about seven minutes remaining, Neon called a timeout and huddled up on third down with about two yards to go. Once the play was set up by their coach, Brian Gonzalez, both teams settled into position. The timeout proved to be a wise one since Neon was not only able to get the first down but also score on a well-designed run play. The score was now 12-12.

It remained that way till the end of regulation. Then, in sudden-victory overtime, a bad snap by Black resulted in a punt to Neon. On the punt return, the Neon team was able make it to about midfield before being stopped. Two quick midrange passes drove Neon into the red zone, and they scored on a designed quarterback run to win the game 18-12.

Not only was it a terrific game, but Marilu Garcia was equally impressed by the co-ed league’s great turnout that afternoon.

“It’s unbelievable,” she said. “Through sports they learn discipline and commitment to teamwork.”