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Interest in this game isn't flagging

If you think flag football begins and ends at the parks and rec office, guess again.

If your image of a flag football player is an immobile slug, whose sagging mass no longer resembles the one that once wore a college uniform, you?re off track.

Consider John Foote as your prototypical flagger.

— — — The umbrella — organization:

The United States — Flag and Touch Football League, Londonderry, N.H.

— — The League:

Rogue Valley Flag Football

— — Games:

Each Saturday with kickoffs at 9 a.m., 10:15 — a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1:15 p.m. and 2:45 p.m.

— — The style:

Eight-man teams with everyone on the field — eligible to receive passes.

— — The field:

80 yards by 50 yards. First downs are marked in — 20-yard sectors.

— — Rules:

There are no live-ball fumbles, no stiff-arming — and only one spin per rushing attempt to avoid elbows in the face. — Officials are allowed to send an unruly player to the sideline for a — five-minute cooling off period. — —

Foote was the antithesis of the 300-pound behemoth when he played high school football at Crater.

I was a 98-pound wrestler, Foote says. I played football out of necessity when (coaches) Dan Speasl and Jay McRoberts suggested it would be for the betterment of my wrestling career.

Now in his early 30s, Foote has grown to 5-foot-10 and 165 pounds, runs a small business — Landmind Productions — — and sponsors his own flag football team, Landmine.

Landmine began playing in 1996 as a member of the Arena Flag League in the old Valley Floor Arena. The eight-team league lasted one year and wasn't coordinated very well, Foote says.

When the indoor league folded, Foote took his team outdoors and played primarily a tournament schedule for the next couple of seasons. Fellow Crater graduates Dan Hopkinson and Brady Gibson, Ashland's Andrew Avizinis and Californian Quincy Green remain from the original cast.

When Rogue Valley Flag Football formed last year, another eight players signed on: North Medford graduates Duane Patterson, Ryan Lougheed and Andrew Lougheed; Crater grads Bert Ford and Mike Thompson; Californians Mike Young and Shawn MacBeth and Jessie Montague of New Orleans.

That crew has put together a 39-2 record the past two years, won 32 straight and gone undefeated in five tournaments.

Three of the wins have been at the expense of Duck Inn, heretofore the top team in the Northwest.

As a result, Flag Football Magazine and FlagMag.com have ranked Landmine No. 25 among all the 8-man flag teams in which all players on the field are eligible pass receivers.

(Yes, there is a distinction between nine-man with linemen ineligible, eight-man with some eligible and others ineligible, seven-man, and seven- and eight-man combinations.)

Instead of just being a bunch of guys playing football in Medford, Foote says. It's given us a lot of confidence about what we're doing. It's truly a national sport, and we're part of a huge organization.

Unlike collegiate or high school basketball and football polls that appear weekly, the current flag poll has been around since June and the next rankings come out in December.

While Landmine has done nothing to hurt its next ranking, come Jan. 13-14, the team has a chance to prove itself beyond the region at the U.S. Flag and Touch League Nationals in Orlando, Fla., where more than 100 eight-man (of the everyone eligible variety) teams will sort themselves out. Teams can expect to play six or seven games a day.

We?ll be No. — out of our region, so we should be one of the top-seeded teams, says Foote, adding that his team would be satisfied with a top-eight finish if it can't win it.

When Foote scanned the rankings, there weren't a lot of West Coast teams. But one that caught his eye was No. 4 North Highland Posse out of Sacramento, Calif.

I hope we can play them before we go to Florida, Foote says. It would be nice to see what a No. 4 team looks like.

There are probably a few teams in the RVFF that would just as soon see Landmine play someone else on Saturdays.

If we're going to invest the kind of time we do, Foote says, we might as well be serious about what we do. During our 32-game unbeaten streak, our margin of victory has been incredible.

Last week, Landmine exploded for wins of 61-0 over Butler Ford and 53-0 over a team called Reagan to improve to 8-0 in league. They play 18 games.

Considering games consist of two 25-minute halves, the above totals are hard to come by.

It's also hard to come from behind. Seven of last Saturday's eight games played at Medford Little League Fields were won by shutouts.

Unless you have a really strong defense, Foote says, you?re in trouble.

When the local flag footballers lost their indoor site, they scrounged around for whatever open turf they could find.

We played in Rogue River, Gold Hill, anywhere we could last year, says Foote. We were the mutts of organized sports.

Sometimes, we were kicked off fields. Last year, we went through our tournament in fear that Parks and Recreation or school officials were going to show up and say, ?What are you doing????

But armed with a national ranking and being part of an organization that has teams around the world, Foote went to City Hall looking for help.

Tom Hilton and Greg Jones at the Parks and Recreation gave the league clearance to use the little league fields, in exchange for a donation to Medford American Little League.

That's helped us to become a much stronger league, Foote says.

Flag football interest has been cyclical in the Rogue Valley, but if Foote has any say in the matter the boom will carry on for years.

Landmine needs to raise $15,000

for its trip to Florida and is willing to work for donations.

We're putting our team out for hire, Foote says. We?ll do yards, construction, clean-up, cut firewood, paint houses, whatever.We're 16 strong guys, willing and able.

To reach Foote, call 772-7227 or e-mail him at . Reach reporter at 776-4483, or e-mail