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Upper Township men’s flag football league drawing some outstanding talent to rosters

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By DAVE O’SULLIVAN Publisher On a warm Sunday morning in September at the Upper Township Elementary School, a pair of former star Division I football players squared off against each other, running routes and trying to out-do the other for highlight-reel catches. No, it wasn’t a private workout for scouts, but still there was some serious competition going on. Welcome to the new and improved Men’s Flag Football League of South Jersey. The league, which features 7-on-7 flag football on Sunday mornings throughout the fall in Upper Township, is in its 22nd season, but the level of competition has been ratcheted up thanks to an influx of some seriously talented athletes. Guys such as Marvin Burroughs (Atlantic City High School) and Norm White (St. Joseph-Hammonton) have joined team HQ to form one of the most dynamic duos in the league, and Chris Harris, a former Ocean City High School and Elon College star who had a tryout with the Baltimore Ravens of the NFL last spring, helped lead American Demolition to the league championship a year ago. Norm White, a former star at St. Joseph-Hammonton and Villanova University, joined team HQ this year and has made an immediate impact in the league. (Glory Days Magazine photos/Dave O'Sullivan) Norm White, a former star at St. Joseph-Hammonton and Villanova University, joined team HQ this year and has made an immediate impact in the league. (Glory Days Magazine photos/Dave O’Sullivan) The team called “Nightmares” is led by Jeff “Twinkie” Sheeler, who played at Oakcrest and Widener University and also features Zach Luckett, a Holy Spirit graduate who played at Virginia Tech. Burroughs and White both played at Villanova University, and Steve Cook (Ocean City) and Mike Isgro (Absegami) were teammates at Delaware Valley College. Mark Schenauer, an Absegami product, played at the University of Delaware and is a stalwart for American Demotion, along with Isgro and Cook. “We’ve always had good teams, but the talent really started coming around when John Stone, Dave Klemic and Tony Granieri started coming in and that was probably around 2005 or 2006,” said Ray Goldstein, a member of American Demolition and one of the league organizers. “Those were some of the biggest names that came into our league, and from there what started happening was people started realizing that since Dave and John and Tony were in our league that helped attract some of the guys who have now come aboard. “Steve Cook has been on our team for about nine years, and he went to school with Mike Isgro. It kind of snowballed from there. Mike got Mark Schenauer and Steve got Chris Harris, Marvin got Norm and some of the other guys. If you know one guy and they see how good it is you can attract other good players.” “This is kind of like a first step for us to attract some of the better talent, and it’s working. We have big plans and we want to push a little bit more toward the western part of South Jersey and really compete with some of the more established leagues. Now we have the talent to where we can do that,” Goldstein said, referring to the additions of guys such as Burroughs and White this season. Harris joined the league last year and said he is impressed with the level of competition he has seen since joining. “I think it’s awesome. It’s really organized and has good competition. There are other players who have played a high level of football,” Harris said. Seeing guys like Harris and White go at it on opposite sides of the ball has been quite a thrill for many of the players in the league. Goldstein said it has been nothing short of awesome to see big, tall, athletic players leaping for touchdowns and interceptions. “It’s phenomenal. It’s very exciting, you see these guys and the talent they have,” Goldstein said. “It’s kind of surreal when you see a guy who has NFL level talent. And Marvin played at Villanova and to watch him orchestrate an offense the way he does, it’s surreal. It’s really cool to watch, and it brings more credibility for us. Former Absegami and Delaware Valley College standout quarterback Mike Isgro, who is the offensive coordinator for the Cedar Creek High School football team, helped lead American Demolition to the 2013 league championship as its signal caller. Former Absegami and Delaware Valley College standout quarterback Mike Isgro, who is the offensive coordinator for the Cedar Creek High School football team, helped lead American Demolition to the 2013 league championship as its signal caller. “That was amazing on a couple of levels,” Goldstein said of the matchup between Harris and White. “One, they are great athletes and have excelled at what they are doing. They’re very competitive with each other. As the elder statesman in the league it was good to see that it was very friendly competition. It was exciting to watch two great athletes go at it, but when they come off the field everyone is very good about it and I like seeing that.” The rivalry between Harris and White extends back to their high school days on the basketball courts and football fields of South Jersey. “I’ve known Norm since high school, we played against each other in basketball and we were the same year. He had a heck of a career at Villanova,” said Harris, who graduated from Ocean City High School in 2008. “We were a pretty good matchup in basketball and I always thought he would go to college for basketball, but he got a football scholarship to Villanova. For a guy the size he is and the height he has, it makes him a very good defender.” For a guy such as Harris, who still holds out some hope for an NFL career (his agent contacted him in late September and asked if he would be willing to work out for teams as injuries mount up on NFL rosters), playing in the MFFL allows him to stay sharp with route running as well as conditioning, he said. “It helps me keep up with my route running and you’re getting good competition at the same time. It keeps you on your toes and keeps you ready. I was expecting good competition because I knew we had good players on our team so I figured the other teams had good players, too,” Harris said. “It’s a convenient thing for me and every week you get a good workout in. It’s like a whole workout session. It might be even a little better because you have an actual, live 7-on-7 going on and not just one-on-one. You have to find space, avoid people.” Goldstein, who has been involved with the league for the past 15 years, said the competition level is at an all-time high. “Some of these guys take competition to a new level. When you’re out there playing professionally or Division I college ball, you’re very competitive and passionate about it. They all want to win,” Goldstein said. “These guys aren’t here just to run around. They want to go out and raise the trophy. I can speak for my team, and we talk all week about what we’re going to do (on Sunday), and I know Twinkie’s team and Marvin’s team are doing the same thing.” Goldstein said he expects the league to continue to grow in popularity, and continue to attract top-level talent from the South Jersey area. “I think it’s going to grow. I think we’ll max out at 12 teams. It might be something (current high school players) can consider once they are done playing. I can see this getting bigger and bigger. When people hear the names they will recognize them and maybe think it’s something they can get involved in after their career is done in school or whatever they are doing,” Goldstein said. “The ultimate goal would be maybe the winner of our league would be sponsored by the league itself and we could enter that team into tournaments.” Keeping guys such as Harris around for the next couple of years will go a long way in helping the league achieve its goals, and Harris said he enjoys it enough to keep playing. “I live in Philly now and I come home on the weekends to play,” Harris said. “I’ll definitely stay with it as long as I’m in the area.” To learn more about the league, visit www.mensflagfootballofsj.webs.com. Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sully@acglorydays.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays [adsense]

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