Everyone knows about the ninth ranked Racer basketball team. However, not many people know of another top-20 Murray State team.
Over the break, the Has Beens and the Hester men’s team traveled to Pensacola, Fla. to compete in the 2011 ACIS Flag Football National Championships.
Before earning an invitation to the national championships, both teams had to win the intramural tournament at Murray State. Additionally, both teams chose to travel to a regional tournament to compete against other college teams from around the country.
“We went to regionals to play but also to scout out some of the best competition we could see at nationals if we made it there,” Hester Captain Josh Jones said. “So then we took some of the tactics and plays we learned at regionals to come back and finish off the Murray State championship. From there we took what we learned at Murray State as well and went off to nationals.”
At nationals, teams competed in a round robin style before a final field of 32 teams faced off in a single elimination bracket format. Both the men’s and the women’s teams advanced out of the round robin and into the 32 team playoff, where the women lost in the first round to eventual national champion Florida A&M University.
The men faced two time defending national champion, North Carolina A&T in the first round. After a long battle culminating in double overtime, the Hester team lost by one point. However, the Hester men rallied back to win the next game and make the field of 32. The men won their first game in the rounds earned a rematch with North Carolina A&T in the Sweet 16. The men battled the defending champs to the end, but lost by two points.
“Everyone was surprised at how close we came to knocking off A&T in that first game,” Jones said. “Even the referees were surprised at how close we came. It was cool to see the guys keep their heads up after that tough loss and pull out two big wins in a row to get us to the Sweet 16 and get another chance at them.”
The Gators from the University of Florida would go on to win the 2011 national championship in the men’s division.
Even after their success at Murray State and at the regionals, Jones continued to focus his team around having fun.
“We were just a group of friends who had fun,” Jones said. “We had a long run together going to two nationals, one regionals and winning Murray State twice over the course of two years. Yeah we did a lot of winning, but the focus was always on having fun and playing together. Sometimes when it comes to intramurals, people want to win so bad that they forget to have fun, but at Hester we always tried to remember to keep it fun because that’s what intramural sports is supposed to be about.”
Murray State has a long tradition of intramural sports on campus and Jones gave credit to the program he has participated in during his entire time as a student.
“We talked to teams at nationals who said they got up at 7 a.m. every day all year to practice for the flag football tournament,” Jones said. “We never had many practices, we always just went out and played the games and had fun, so to have Murray State teams succeeding at the national and regional tournaments against the best of the best shows the quality of the program we have here.”
After his second trip to nationals, Jones reflected on his memories from nationals and intramurals in general.
“The national championship experiences will be some of my top five memories from college,” Jones said. “It was fun to go this year and be one of the better teams there for a change. Also, it was my first time ever touching the sand on a beach, so overall it was just a really cool trip. But the best part of the whole experience was playing with the same guys for four or more years. We had a really really good time and it has been truly a great experience playing for and representing Hester and Murray State.”
Jones and his teammates said they are shifting their focus to the upcoming basketball season as they hope to travel to the national basketball tournament as well. Who knows, maybe they’ll be able to give the No. 9 men’s basketball team a run for its money.