A new coach hopes to garner better international results for Cayman Islands flag football.
The Cayman Islands Flag Football Association is resuming training sessions for its national men’s team. Leading the charge will be head coach Clayton Lopez, who manned the sidelines for the Island Heritage Predators during this summer’s adult league.
Lopez, who used to live in California, says the plan is to produce better performances at events overseas.
“I grew up in Southern California but my father is a long-time deputy director at the prison at Northward and at Fairbanks,” Lopez, 44, said. “He’s been here, my sister’s been here, my whole family is here. I just educated myself in the States so that kind of kept me away from here but I come here very frequently, very often. So that’s where my history lies, right there. I take good care of myself, a little heavy right now, but these guys got me working.
“We’re going to start working out for the national team. I’m excited about it, we got a good group of guys, we got players eager. I’m just grateful to be able to share what I know with these guys to make them better. When we go internationally, it’s not going to be the same old Cayman. It’s not going to be the same thing, we’re not going to go down there and lose a bunch of games. We’re going to go out there, produce and be different.”
Cayman competed in two competitions in the United States this year, with mixed results. In July, a women’s team competed at the third annual Fallen Warriors Invitational in Atlanta, Georgia. Captained by association president Maggie Ebanks, Cayman competed in the eight-man competitive contact segment. The local squad – which included the likes of Scimone Campbell, Jennifer Cotarelo and Nekita Saintvil – did not post a top finish.
The competition was put on by the Atlanta Sports Connection and was recognized by the United States Flag and Touch Football League as a major national invitational tournament. Aside from Cayman, there were teams from across the United States taking part with states such as Louisiana, Florida and Alabama being represented. The JP Mosley Park, consisting of grass football fields with scoreboards, served as the venue.
In January, Cayman competed at the 43rd annual U.S. Flag and Touch League National Flag Football Championships in Kissimmee, Florida. The national men’s team finished tied for fifth in the “9-Man Ineligible B-Flag” division while the ladies finished tied for 17th out of 20 teams in the “Women 8-Man Eligible Flag” segment. Led by coaches Ike Bush and Rohan Marshall, the men reached the quarterfinals at the Austin Tindall Sports Complex, with squads from American states like Maryland, Alabama and Missouri also taking part.
Among the local men who competed were Damian Barboram, Matt Bone, Chris Bennett, Nikolai Hill, Perry Levy, Chris Lucas, Brendon Malice, Paul McField Jr., Oliver Parker, Josh Parsons, Will Peguero Jr, Adrian Rowe, Jermaine Sharpe, Baron Solomon, Tito Solomon, David Taylor, Rhod Taylor and Peter Whittaker. The women’s team included Cassandra Bodden, Scimone Campbell, Maggie Ebanks, Alexandria Saintvil, Camille Solomon, Treveen Stewart and Joni Wood.
Interestingly, Lopez has experience coaching in the National Football League. The former defensive back at the University of Nevada boasts stops at a handful of teams where he worked primarily on defense. Lopez says the national team is one of many local endeavors he has planned.
“I’m a 15-year NFL coaching veteran, I coached the defensive backs. I’ve been with a number of teams – the Oakland Raiders, the St. Louis Rams, the Detroit Lions. The Seattle Seahawks is where I spent most of my time. I’ve been around football for a very long time, I also played football for a long time. I’m just glad to come here and share my experiences with these players that I coached this year and with local coaches as well.
“Long-term, I will help out any way I can. I was chosen to be the coach of the men’s flag football national team, an honor that I’m privileged to accept, and that’s just the start of it. There are other programs, youth programs, around here that I want to be involved with and I’m [in the process of] trying to make that happen as we speak.”