Flag Day

At Least There's One UA Football Team That's Nearly Unstoppable

By Tom Danehy

I WENT TO a football game at the University of Arizona last week. It was a one-sided affair, lots of passing by one team, not a whole lotta pass defense by the other. One team was clearly superior.

No, I'm not talking about the UA-Washington game, although I did go to that one, too. However, instead of sitting in the pressure cooker that is the press box, I thought I'd sit out among the real folk, maybe get a taste of the autumn football atmosphere. By halftime, I found myself standing in the middle of Sixth Street, having been pushed along like a piece of driftwood in the Amazon.

Danehy I tried to go back in, but they told me they had a no-return policy. They snarled that I should have stayed in the press box, where everyone is locked in, hermetically sealed, until either the game clock or the free burritos run out. Believe me, three things which should never be considered in combination are sportswriters, burritos and "hermetically sealed."

I told the guy that I just had to get back in there. He said, "Why, did you forget your booze?"

I explained to him that I don't drink. He said, "Then why in the world would you want to go back in there?"

Good point.

Anyway, the game to which I was initially referring was the UA Flag Football Intramural championship game between the four-time defending champions, The Tribe, and Sigma Alpha Epsilon, a fraternity team.

The game was played on a Monday night at Drachman Field, adjacent to the UA track stadium. The official attendance was eight, falling just short of the number of people left in Arizona Stadium at the end of the Washington debacle. Actually, it was either eight or nine, depending on whether that wino lying near the end zone was merely asleep or had gone on to that great Boone's Farm in the Sky.

Those in attendance were one guy's mom, the head of the intramurals, me, my son Alexander, the wino (who looked a lot like Alan Lang), somebody's girlfriend, and two poor frat pledge dorks who were in suit and tie (proving that, yes, there is something more pathetic than two Mormon guys riding bikes).

Flag football played at that level is a great game. Fast players stretch the 80-yard field, allowing for quick-strike touchdowns. Rules which allow for multiple passes behind the line of scrimmage let some teams play a ball-control game, moving the ball down the field in 10- or 15-yard chunks. As football goes, there isn't a lot of actual contact, but bodies do fly around.

The Tribe is something of a legend in UA intramural circles. They've dominated the game for much of the '90s, causing more than a little consternation among rivals. Since everyone involved in intramurals must be affiliated with the UA in some way, eligibility scrutiny gets tight. This year, someone on a rival team allegedly scanned student records to check on the eligibility of every member of The Tribe. This is illegal, of course, and not real smart.

The members of The Tribe are all eligible, although one is doing his best imitation of Animal House's Bluto Blutarski, who, as you'll remember, was a seventh-year sophomore.

By reaching the finals, both teams had earned a spot in the state tournament, to be played this weekend at the UA. Pitting teams from Northern Arizona University, Arizona State, Grand Canyon University, and the UA, the two-day tourney will feature games on the UA Mall Saturday, November 1, with the finals at Drachman Field on Sunday, November 2.

The state champions will vie for a chance to play for the national title in the Louisiana Superdome on New Year's Day, before the Sugar Bowl game. Should The Tribe emerge, it'll be their fourth trip to the nationals in five years. A couple years ago, competing in a field of nearly 300 teams, they reached the Sweet 16 before a stinging defeat in which they blew an 18-point lead.

That game was played in a driving rainstorm which made for treacherous footing in the below-sea-level, silt-and-sand turf. But hey, both teams were playing under the same conditions, so let's just go back to saying they blew an 18-point lead.

The Tribe is an unselfish group of clever veterans. Players rotate from one position to another, even sharing the quarterback spot. They play smart and they play hard.

Against SAE in the championship, several players shined. There was super-quick Paul Carrillo, a former Pueblo High basketball star who's working on his master's in sports administration.

Mike Santa Cruz, another Pueblo grad, is the son of former Pueblo football coach Curly Santa Cruz. (No, not the guy who got fired for grabbing a player's face-mask, which constitutes the sissiest complaint and lamest firing of all time.) When Curly was 25, he weighed 182 pounds. Now, near 50, he weighs 181.9997 pounds. The discrepancy can be traced to the loss of his soul, which he apparently sold to the Devil in exchange for looking exactly the same as he did when Gerald Ford was president.

Paced by former Amphi QB Mark Hewson and the others, The Tribe cruised to a 37-9 win over SAE. In fact, the game was stopped early when the SAE guys started complaining about the officiating, as if any ref in the world could administer a 30-point whuppin'. Having the game stopped might cause SAE to miss the state tourney; at press time it was uncertain whether they'd be allowed to play.

If SAE can play, an all-UA finals is possible. SAE is one of the few teams to have beaten The Tribe over the past five years. And I don't want to make too big a thing of their having been disqualified. Heck, when I was in college, SAE was in trouble for one of its drunken members running over a pedestrian in a parking lot. Yelling at refs is a big step forward.

This may be the last year for The Tribe, many of whom have put off full-fledged adulthood about as long as possible. Stop by the UA and watch their last hurrah. They'll be the ones with the shirts which read, "The Tribe." See, I told you they were all in college. TW

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