TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – “Every single round, don’t go 75 percent, that helps nobody. It doesn’t help you. It doesn’t help your team. It doesn’t help the quarterback. It doesn’t help anybody. (Go) 110 percent.”
Chad Cozzens, the head coach of the Miami Dolphins Under the Lights Flag Football team in South Tampa, shared those words of wisdom with his players.
“These kids have been working hard,” Cozzens told 8 On Your Side’s Gabrielle Shirley. “They come together. They have great chemistry. They are fast. They are smart. I just love coaching them.”
The athletes are a mix of third graders and fourth graders. Cozzens’ son and daughter are both on the team.
Cozzens has been the head coach for the past four years and he has had the pleasure of seeing some of the same faces again and again.
“When these kids get on the field, they are brothers and sisters and that is what they are. That is why they do so well together,” he said.
The Dolphins actually won a championship over Memorial Day weekend. They had to keep their opponent from scoring on the final play to win it and they managed to do it.
“That was intense,” said Julian Hirsch, who plays receiver and safety for the Dolphins.
Alec Sergi reenacted his reaction on that final play by swinging his arms across his chest.
“I am doing this to the ref,” he said. “I am like, ‘No!’ and it ended up being a no catch so we won the championship!”
“Everyone on our team was running on the field and saying, ‘We won! We won!’” said quarterback Marino Cozzens.
You could be correct if you are wondering if Marino is named after Dan Marino, the legendary NFL quarterback who only played for the Miami Dolphins. Ding! Ding! Ding!
“We started dumping water on each other,” said Collin Nguyen, who is also a member of this championship team. “And we started tackling each other.”
The sweet victory was made sweeter by an intense hunger. These athletes played in multiple games to get to that championship game.
“Everyone was really tired going into the championship. We were also really hungry,” Nguyen said.
Gabrielle Shirley decided to ask him for a clarification.
“Were you hungry for a win or were you hungry for a sandwich?” she asked.
“We were hungry like hungry, hungry. We were hungry for food,” he said with a smile. “It was like 10 o’clock and we had not eaten anything!”
A celebratory meal added to the excitement of the win. Now, these players and their families have a trip to Los Angeles, California circled on their calendars.
“Speechless, I did not know what to think,” said the younger Cozzens.
“I just went outside and all the neighbors were staring at me because I was screaming and yelling and I was like, ‘We are going to LA!’” said Sergi.
This team will compete for a national championship on the campus of UCLA in August and, thankfully, the head coach is feeling confident.
“Everyone on our team is super smart. I do not care how fast they are, how tall they are, if they can catch, I will find the ability that they have and we will use it,” said Cozzens.
If you would like to help the Dolphins with their travel expenses, they are hosting three fundraising events:
Saturday, June 22:
- Car wash
- 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
- Tampa Sports Academy: 4539 S Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa
Saturday, July 13:
- Fundraiser Party with Raffle
- 6 p.m.
- The Patio: 421 S MacDill Avenue in Tampa
Thursday, July 18:
- Spirit Night
- 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.
- Beef ‘O’ Brady’s: 2819 S MacDill Avenue in Tampa
You can also donate to their GoFundMe page.