By LINDA CHION KENNEY
Flag football is coming into its own in Hillsborough County, with the first-ever Clash of the Bay tournament set to take place in one of two locations, including the newly opened SouthShore Sportsplex in Apollo Beach.
It’s one of the first two large events for the complex, and the first to cast the spotlight on adult recreation, which organizers hope will have “a snowball effect on everything that’s to come,” said Michael Russell, an athletic specialist for Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation. The aim, he added, is to offer “programs inclusive to all ages, and to everyone who comes out.”
Clash of the Bay games will be held Oct. 7-8 at both the SouthShore Sportsplex, at 6110 Waterset Blvd., as well as the Skyway Sports Complex in Tampa, at 3901 George Road in Tampa. Set to be played in Apollo Beach is the championship match for the tournament held both north and south of Tampa, “which is why we’re calling it Clash of the Bay,” Russell said.
In addition to the four-on-four flag football contest, which requires advance registration and a $200 registration fee for teams of up to six players, there will be mini-games and skill contests thrown into the mix for attendees, as well as the draw of the SouthShore Sportsplex’s impressive playground for kids.
The flag football contest follows a baseball all-stars event held at the newly opened Apollo Beach facility. As for flag football, it’s a sport that harkens back “to the playground days” of our youth, said Chris Kiddy, athletics manager for the 47 sports complexes operating under the auspices of Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation.
Historically speaking, modern football and flag football, also called touch football, at one time was one game, played without protective equipment and with virtually no physical restraint, according to sportsrec.com. According to the site, “when 18 young men died from the violent play, president Theodore Roosevelt stepped in to bring order to the sport,” which is how modern and touch parted ways in 1905, with modern football coming forth with its rules and protective equipment.
Today, flag football’s presence continues to grow, as schools add programs and the National Football League pushes to make it an Olympic sport, making it a no-brainer that flag football is a focus for Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation as well.
Plans are to make the 4V4 Clash of the Bay an annual tournament. The debut tournament aims to field 48 teams with four players each, plus two more on the sidelines. The minimum age to compete is 18. Tournament 4V4 rules call for as well 30-minute games, with two 15-minute halves and no halftime. No contact is allowed and there are no timeouts, except if the official deems it necessary.
Moreover, all drives, except interceptions, start from the 5-yard line and the team to reach 28 points first — or that has the most points when the game-clock stops — wins the contest. A tie-score brings the game into overtime. Six and two points, respectively, are earned for a touchdown and safety, while the 5-yard extra point and 12-yard extra point yields one and two points, respectively.
“Whether you’re a die-hard fan for just looking for a fun day out, ‘Clash of the Bay’ promises to be an unforgettable experience,” according to the county’s news release, which notes as well the “electrifying” and family-friendly atmosphere in view at each of the tournament facilities.
The SouthShore Sportsplex sports four connected fields, making it one of the largest contiguous synthetic turf fields in the nation. Also on site, the playground, pavilions, LED lighting, a concession building with restrooms, offices and meeting space, and parking for more than 500 vehicles. The county’s $11 million first-phase investment covers roughly half the 85-acre site. Phase II is set to include four synthetic-turf baseball fields and a dog park, according to Hillsborough County Commissioner Harry Cohen.
Among the youth groups set to use the SouthShore Sportsplex, as of its opening, are N Zone Sports (football, soccer), Waterset Oilers (flag football, football, cheerleading), Tampa Dynamo FC (soccer), Under the Lights powered by Under Armour (flag football), Apollo Beach Lacrosse Club and Happy Feet (soccer). For adults, the groups are SoHill (kickball, Frisbee, football), Club Sport (soccer) and Suncoast Soccer.
Moreover, what’s unique about the SouthShore Sportsplex, Kiddy said, “is that we’re always going to try to leave field space open for the public to come out and play pickup games.” He noted that because county sites for the most part are run by athletic partnering organizations, like Pop Warner and Little League, usage is not available for pickup games. As for the SouthShore Sportsplex, “this is the place where you’re going to be able to come and there will be fields open,” Kiddy said.
For rental fees, and for weekly calendars noting available times for pickup games, visit www.hillsboroughcounty.org/en/locations/southshore-sportsplex. The fields support a variety of sports and activities, including soccer, football, lacrosse, kickball and cricket. The SouthShore Sportsplex is at 6110 Waterset Blvd., Apollo Beach. Call: 813-744-5595.