'You meet so many nice people at these tournaments'

Jan. 8—PLAINS TWP. — The bags were flying and the competition was fierce, yet fun, as NEPA Cornhole brought together over 100 players from around the area and beyond for a regional tournament Saturday afternoon.

Over 20 boards were set up in two lines inside the spacious confines of NEPA Crossfit in Plains Township, ensuring that even with a huge crowd like Saturday's, the show ran as smoothly as can be.

"We're the regional directors for the American Cornhole League, which is on ESPN and they do a lot of big tournaments," said NEPA Cornhole co-owner TJ Griffiths. "We have some pros here, there's teams from New York and New Jersey and Delaware here."

The sport of cornhole, long a popular backyard, casual type of game, has rocketed in popularity over the last couple of years, and organizations like NEPA Cornhole have begun to pop up widely, providing the area's best players a chance to play on a competitive level.

Griffiths attributed the game's rise in popularity to expanded coverage on major networks like ESPN, as well as the game's inclusivity.

"I attribute it to the American Cornhole League putting cornhole in everybody's homes, with more coverage," Griffiths said. "And anybody could play — anyone could do it."

The tournament was divided into a blind draw, singles and doubles competition, with three skill levels in each: Open, which is more of a social type of game, intermediate and competitive, for the very best players.

This schedule allowed players of all different ages, experience and skill levels play comfortably while still having a great time.

Clay Mosier, from Towanda, admitted that his first game was a little shaky on Saturday. Mosier has been playing cornhole competitively for about a year and a half, and enjoys it as much for the social aspect as he does for the competitive nature of the sport.

"I just started by showing up to a local blind draw," Mosier said. "I like the competition, but it's also a great way to make friends."

Nelson Coble said that he got his start in cornhole the same way many have: by playing in a backyard tournament, and discovering a knack for the game.

"My confidence level is high, I'm coming in hot," Coble joked before stepping up for his match. "You meet so many nice people at these tournaments, I love it."

NEPA Cornhole has held tournaments at NEPA Crossfit in the past in addition to places like Susquehanna Brewing Company in Pittston.

"We try to get as many boards set up as possible, today we've got 21 boards set up, we've got tablets for scoring," Griffiths said. "That way, we could move along real smoothly with the tournament."

While participants waited for their turn to take the bags, several could be seen watching and cheering on their friends, enjoying some food and some beverages and psyching themselves up to play.

When Chris Heisley finished up one of his early games, he got an earful about his performance from his son, Landon.

From Williamsport, the Heisleys would be pairing up later on in the afternoon for some doubles action.

When asked who the better cornhole player was in the family, Landon, 16, didn't hesitate.

"Probably my dad," he said.