Esteban “Gaby” Soto knows how to make a good first impression.
The 13-year-old Juneau Youth Football League running back scored on the very first play in the JYFL 49ers’ 13U Central championship game Saturday at the National Youth Football Championships in Las Vegas.
Soto ran up the gut of the field to the 35-yard line before heading to the sideline to evade Utah Springville Red Devils’ tacklers.
“It felt amazing,” Soto said of the run. “It really set a tempo for us for the rest of the game.”
It was the first of three touchdowns for Soto, as the Juneau team pounded Utah Springville 36-19. Wallace Adams scored two additional touchdowns for the 49ers, who held a commanding 24-point lead at halftime.
With another 13U Central championship in clear sight, the JYFL team ceased the scoring onslaught in the second half, settling for the 17-point victory and memorable JYFL send off for a chunk of the team.
JYFL supports a flag football division for kindergarten, first and second graders. Then, players spend two years each in Cubs (Grade 3-4), Junior (Grade 5-6) and Senior (Grade 7-8) tackle football leagues.
“I was really focused on training and getting better in practice to come back and win,” said 14-year-old tight end Mathias Wiederspohn, who was a part of the NYFC-winning Raiders last year. “It really meant a lot to me to come back and win another one.”
Coach Chris Connally said the speed of his team and the game plan they paired with it gave the Juneau team the upper hand.
“I’d hear the (Red Devils) sit there and say, ‘Watch this play, watch this play, they’re coming right here,’ when we’re actually coming from the completely opposite way,” Connally said. “So they were guessing a lot.”
In the first game of the tournament against the Colorado Northern Falcons, the 49ers again scored over 30 points but saw three other players score besides Soto and Wallace.
Wiederspohn, Ashton (Boom) Schaa and Jack Gregson provided second-half strikes to give the 49ers a 38-13 victory over the Falcons.
Widerspohn’s touchdown came about halfway through the third quarter against the on a reverse pass from Noah Chambers.
“We were setting up the run a lot,” Wiederspohn said. “At that point, they just thought we were just trying to run the clock out and I was just wide open. It was a good throw, it was a really good play call.”
Schaa scored on an interception later in the game, and Gregson capped the scoring with his first touchdown of the tournament.
Utah’s Granger Lancers Bantams won the 13U National Conference. The Colorado Colts from the Denver area won the 13U American Conference.
The team arrived back in Juneau on Tuesday morning with a 4-foot tall trophy in tow.
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.