PUPILS from a Flintshire primary school were cruelly denied a once in a lifetime opportunity to play flag football in Florida.

After reaching the final, Ysgol Gwynedd looked set to win the 2019 national NFL Flag Championships, and with it, the reward of an all-expenses paid trip to Florida, USA.

But Houghton Primary School from Godmanchester pipped the youngsters from Flint to the prize by winning a nail-bitingly tense finale by just a single point.

The winning Houghton team will now travel to the Sunshine State in January 2020 to represent the UK at the international Youth Flag Pro Bowl.

But Ysgol Gwynedd’s PE co-ordinator and Year 5 and 6 teacher, Mr Stephan Salvoni, is proud of his team for showing that they are among the best, young flag football players in the nation.

Speaking to the Leader, he said: “We had an amazing experience which was better than any of us could ever have expected, and something the children will never forget.

“Florida was just a distant dream when we started training seven weeks ago, so we did really well to get that close while representing Flintshire and all of Wales. The team should be proud of themselves for showing that they are the second-best team in the UK.

“It was a surprise for us to perform like we did against teams who have been playing for years. We came so close, and at the end the difference was just a point after touchdown (PAT) which they made while we didn’t, and time was against us from then.

“There were a lot of tears at the end but on the long trip home they started to realise just what they’d accomplished. It was the best experience we’ve ever had as a school.”

Ysgol Gwynedd were one of 12 teams to take part in the 2019 NFL Flag Football National Championships which saw around 180 children compete against one another to claim the title of being the best in the nation.

Eight professional NFL players joined the teams at the brand-new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London and acted as honorary coaches for the day.

The Flint team were partnered with linebacker Nnamka Samson Ebukam of the Los Angeles Rams for the day, which made them known as the Ysgol Gwynedd Rams during the tournament.

And the side enjoyed the perfect start when Levi Kendrick scored the first ever competitive touchdown by any team at the new, state of the art football stadium in an opening game 18-6 victory over Ingram Road School from Leeds.

At 13-13, Ysgol Gwynedd found themselves deadlocked at half-time in their second game against Leicester’s Alderman Richard Halam School. But the Rams went on to record a 20-13 success after a team talk from Ebukam and Mr Salvoni at the break.

That win put Ysgol Gwynedd into the quarter finals where they beat the Manchester-based side Saint Mary’s Hall Jaguars 19-13.

Another win came in their semi-final clash against the John Keeble Jaguars from London, with the Rams’ 24-14 success putting the team in to the final of the national NFL Flag Championships.

The final saw the Ysgol Gwynedd Rams go head to head against the Houghton Primary Bears from Godmanchester for the prize of representing Great Britain at the Pro Bowl in Florida next year.

Both teams battled hard in a frantic final which had the two sides neck and neck for much of the game.

The young teams went in to half-time at 19-19, with the score extending to 25-25 after the restart. But eventually, it was Houghton who claimed a sensational 26-25 victory to book their places on the plane to the USA.

The competition concluded with the Houghton team celebrating their success before the guest NFL stars handed out Most Valuable Player (MVP) awards to players in their teams, with Haydn Cartwright collecting the prize for Ysgol Gwynedd.

After the tournament, Afia Law, a community and youth co-ordinator for NFL UK, said: “It was a wonderful day that gave a great opportunity for talented kids to play at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

“The kids loved spending time with professional NFL players, and they enjoyed working with the children too.

“The final was a really close game with it going back and forth throughout. Both teams put in a really good performance, and it was lovely for Flintshire to be represented in the final.”

Ysgol Gwynedd qualified for the 2019 national NFL Flag Championships in London by

winning a regional tournament against other schools on June 26.