Casasanta shines at nationals
Carson Casasanta made the most of his second chance to compete at the Canadian under-16 flag football championships in Nova Scotia.
His first chance came with his Niagara Nitro team but it lost 40-33 in the provincial semifinals to a team from Hamilton. His second chance would come with Hamilton.
“We were hoping to win provincials but we didn’t and then Robbie Underhill, who was coaching the Hamilton team, reached out to me probably because he (Carson) had scored 12 touchdowns at provincials and had four interceptions. He kind of lit it up,” Carson’s father, John Casasanta, said. “When he reached out to us, it was a no brainer.”
Carson was more than happy to join the Hamilton team and become part of Team Ontario.
“I was pretty excited because I really wanted to go. I was sad that we had lost in the semifinals,” the 15-year-old Welland resident said.
Team Ontario ended up losing by a single point to British Columbia in the quarter-finals on the last play of the game. It was a tough loss because Ontario was up by two scores in the second half.
The Grade 10 student at Notre Dame was a major contributor at nationals, scoring 11 touchdowns and adding nine converts.
“It was a blast,” the 5-foot-6, 140 pounder said. “Playing all these other kids was great but the most fun was meeting a bunch of people. When the tournament was done, I hung out with a bunch of guys from Team Saskatchewan and Team B.C. It was nice to meet a bunch of people.”
His highlights from nationals all came off the field.
“It was meeting all those kids, bonding with my teammates and going out with my friends and walking around Nova Scotia.”
It was the second time Casasanta had competed for Team Ontario. Last year, he played a year up on a Niagara-based team that competed in the East West Challenge in Prince Edward Island. He was the youngest player on the team and started on offence and defence. That team won a silver medal, losing to Quebec in the final.
Casasanta started playing flag football in Grade 4 with Niagara Youth Flag Football.
“I just kept playing because I liked it and it was something else to do besides hockey. It was a lot of fun,” he said. “I have always liked football but hockey is contact and I didn’t want to get hit all the time. I needed something else to do.”
He is planning to play tackle football in Grade 11 but it is mainly focused on hockey this season. He plays for Niagara North Stars and is heading into his OHL draft year. He’s uncertain which route he will take with hockey.
“There is a lot of options for Grade 11. I could play junior B, under-18 or I could go up to Toronto to play there.”
Casasanta finds flag football is good cross training for hockey.
“It helps with my speed and athleticism. Speed is big because in flag football you release a lot and helps with your quick steps in hockey and your crossovers.”
No matter where he goes in hockey, flag football will always be a part of his sporting life.
“I am going to play until I can’t play any more.”