Flag football took on an international flavor with the visit of a Bahamas national team over the weekend – and the visitors returned home in triumph.
When Cayman sent a side there last month, Bahamas won the I-Cup. Itching for revenge on their home turf, at West Bay’s Ed Bush stadium on Saturday and Sunday, they found the Bahamians in a defiant mood.
Bahamas won all their four matches this time – three in overtime by one point – to retain the I-Cup. One of those close victories was against the Kensington Hellcats, who despite playing well, could not find the end zone. Craig “Festa” Frederick and Nigel Solomon had good games in defense for the Hellcats.
The women’s tournament was won by Team Thunder, with key players being quarterback Keisha Solomon, Cassandra Bodden and Biannca Johnson. Bodden and Johnson were voted joint women MVPs.
Jayson Clarke shared the quarterback duties with Philemon Rolle for Bahamas, and their shrewd distribution with a makeshift squad who were not totally familiar with the plays proved to be decisive.
This was Clarke’s third time at this tournament and the fact that they won it for the first time is a clear indication of how fast the sport is growing in the Bahamas.
“As for the Cayman Islands, we love it here and the hospitality is always warm and welcoming,” Clarke said. He only plays quarterback, whereas Rolle was a running back in the other games when Clarke had the job.
“What I really like about the quarterback position is the ability to control the game,” Clarke said.
“A lot is on your shoulders and the team looks to you to carry them. It’s pressure that I welcome, especially when you have a talented squad.”
The team consists of players from three teams – two from Nassau and one in Grand Bahama.
He said they did not get as much practice as they wanted before the tournament to perfect plays, so felt limited. Besides Clarke, the key members of the party were coach Aaron Seymour and defensive captain Peter Wilson.
A self-described “perfectionist,” Clarke was frustrated that some players did not practice with the team until they actually arrived in Cayman. Nevertheless, they gelled well enough to stay undefeated.
Clarke is the president of the Bahamas Flag Football League. It has 10 male and 10 female teams, and the sport has existed there for seven years, compared to Cayman’s 15.
A Miami Dolphins supporter, Clarke is a huge Dan Marino (legendary quarterback in the ‘80s) fan, “which is probably what inspired me to play the sport and the current position.”
Clarke is the vice president of technology for Family Guardian, the second-largest insurance company in the Bahamas, so leaving corporate life and unwinding in sport at weekends is a great relief.
Besides flag he also plays softball in three leagues. “I am getting old now and have a lot of mileage on my knees, so while I enjoy basketball and volleyball, I don’t play competitively,” he said.
“Almost any sport in Bahamas I’ve played at some point, including soccer.”
He enjoys the clashes with Cayman. This was his sixth encounter. “This time is my best memory, as we claimed the championship on their turf.
“The I-Cup is great and I like the future plans to get more Caribbean teams down.”
Cayman have almost a year now to regroup before heading to the Bahamas again.
“We have modeled our league after Cayman and as far as improvements are concerned, I believe our partnership will strengthen and improve the overall experience,” Clarke said. “Together, we can find ways to ensure more teams from across the region participate.”