GC Intramurals kicked off 2019 in a familiar atmosphere, sending “Ball”, the men’s intramural flag football champion team, to the national tournament held in Pensacola, Florida.
Ball, comprised of nine GC students, is recognized as the Georgia State Champion after battling through a field of 16 teams and winning the state tournament hosted at Georgia Southern, which secured its bid to the national tournament.
The team competed against other collegiate programs on age national stage, going 5-0 through pool and bracket play before falling short to Texas Rio Grande Valley in the national championship game on Jan. 6.
Leading up to the national championship game, Ball defeated schools across the nation, including; Florida International, Maryland, Texas Southern, Florida A&M and North Carolina A&T.
“GC is always there, and we always have a shot to win the national championship,” said Driver Watson, coordinator of RecSports. “We just haven’t quite jumped the last hurdle yet.”
With so much success blossoming from the effort of Ball throughout the state and national tournament, there weren’t high expectations before the games began.
“We went into both tournaments optimistic but not expecting to do nearly as well as we did, but once we started playing and winning, we built momentum and confidence that grew and carried over into each game we played,” said Mitch Risley, team captain and quarterback. “We realized we had a good shot once we dominated the state tournament the way that we did.”
Ball member and intramural legend Braxton Roberts described the quarter final matchup in the national tournament against Texas Southern.
“We looked across the most calm expression on his face and just told all of us that we were about to win.”
Ball emerged with a 28-26 victory.
The National Runner-Up is not the only accolade the team has brought back to GC. Risley and defensive standout Michael LaHood are two of six players declared All-Americans during the tournament.
This is Risley’s second All-American selection since he was awarded All-American honors at the 2017 national tournament. He led with 30 touchdowns, five ahead of the next closest athlete.
LaHood earned his first All-American honor by leading the tournament with 18 tackles for loss and a handful of significant defensive plays.
“Michael LaHood was by far the most impactful player on defense throughout the tournament,” Watson said. “And Mitch [Risley] is probably the greatest intramural athlete that GC has ever had come through the program.”
The GC Intramural organization is no stranger to the national tournament stage. The men’s intramural flag GC has now had three athletes selected as All-Americans in the past three years at the national tournament: Casey Braun and Risley in 2017 and Risley and LaHood in 2019.
GC has also contributed to the national tournament with officiating selections.
Josh Brown was accepted into the national tournament as a referee for the past two years, an honor only awarded to the Top 50 referees in national tournament in both 2016 and 2017.
To be selected, referees compete with one another in region and state tournaments to receive their bids to the national tournament.
GC Intramurals has gained attention and respect through its intramural flag football team in recent years and will continue to strive for success and a produce a winning culture.