Blue skies and hot weather might seem nice, but with the mercury topping 95 at the Twin Creeks Park on Saturday, June 2, it presented its own set of challenges for Goon Squad, the Summer Slam Flag Football Tournament winners.
Eight teams from all across California met in the newly opened park in the early weekend hours, and it was clear from the outset that the day was going to be a hot one. Unfortunately for Goon Squad, the weather wasn’t the only challenge they’d have to overcome.
“Against all odds—that’s when we’re at our best,” said Goon Squad’s, Moses Cruz. “These guys played their hearts out. We weren’t even going to come because half our team flaked.”
Those dropouts left Goon Squad in a rough spot. They drove up from their hometown of Salinas for the eight-hour tournament with five players, which was just enough to field a full team without any substitutions. That meant no breaks. Each teammate had to carry their own weight.
“Being five people and getting gassed and out of breath—just finishing each game is tough,” said Goon Squad’s, Richie Sosa. “Stuff came up with graduation and everybody canceled out on us Thursday night. We ended up losing the first couple games, both by a couple of points, but then we never lost again.”
Nevertheless, Goon Squad navigated the gauntlet with admirable aplomb, but the hardest challenge was yet to come: exhausted, far from home, the sun blazing overhead, they faced off against North Bay veterans, Past Prime in the tournament’s final game.
Past Prime drew first blood when Thomas Henderson pierced Goon Squad’s defenses and made it all the way down the field for an early touchdown. They followed up with a stalwart series of blocks that put a stop to Goon Squad’s response. Past Prime looked to be building itself some momentum, but then tragedy struck. Their defensive coordinator, Dean Sexton, suffered a cramp and had to be replaced.
“I handle all the offense and he handles the defense,” Past Prime’s, Anthony Bergland said on the loss of Sexton towards the end of the first half. “And then we gave up thirty points.”
It all came to a head in the second part when Goon Squad’s, Robert Guzman ran right up the center, shoving through Past Prime’s, Malick Telcy and Michael Courchaine for a half-field touchdown. After that, Past Prime’s offense just couldn’t keep up.
Guzman grinned at the team’s championship trophy. “I just love the game and love the sport. Things didn’t go my way when I was young because of grades, so now I’m just reliving my high school days through flag football.”
The next Flag Football Tournament will take place on July 14. Andrew Bergland, who also serves as Rohnert Park’s Community Services Sports Coordinator, hopes to turn the city into a hub for the sport.
“Football is the only team sport where no matter your size, your position, your speed—whatever. There’s a place for you on the field. It’s really the only sport that’s got something for everybody,” Bergland said. “We offer different levels. If you just want to get off the couch and sweat a little bit you can and if you’re competitive and if you want to get some trophies you can do that as well.”