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This weekend, October 6-9, over 500 players from 25 teams will land in Houston to take part in Gay Bowl XI, the nation’s premiere annual flag football tournament and the national championship tournament for the National Gay Flag Football League (NGFFL).
All-stars from 21 cities will take part in the three day tournament, to determine which city boasts the best. Gay Bowl XI also marks the introduction of its first international team -- the Toronto Mounties.
Known for its model flag football program and strong talent, San Diego is one of only four cities invited to bring two teams, both of which entered the tournament highly seeded: the #3 San Diego Bolts and the #5 San Diego Toros.
Each year without fail, the tournament has attracted the best teams from across the US and Canada, including last year’s defending champions the LA Motion. San Diego looks to exact some payback on the three-time champion New York Warriors who knocked the Toros out of the semi-finals last year, giving San Diego a 3rd place finish.
Also on San Diego’s radar are the Phoenix Hellraisers, who beat the Bolts in the championship game in this year’s Pride Bowl held in Chicago.
For many of the players on both the Bolts and the Toros, this will be a return to flag football’s biggest stage; for a few, this will be their first visit to the "big show."
"For the new guys, it will be the experience of their lives. I guarantee!! The tournament is not just about the competition, it’s about the friendships, the bonding, and the camaraderie you build with your teammates, and others, sharing the same experience. It’s crazy!”
When asked about the chances of winning, Eric Reissner, captain of the #3 ranked Bolts, had plenty to say.
"This is most talent that San Diego has ever taken on one team," he said. "We combine a great deal of bowl experience with size and a ton of speed. The best thing about this group of guys is the way everyone has embraced the 'team' aspect of football. I know I can speak for everyone on this team when I say that anything less than a championship will be considered a disappointment. I've played in two Gay Bowls and I've gotten 2nd both times. This team is the strongest team I've played for."
"For flag football, national events only happen once or twice a year so it's a great privilege to be part of that experience," said Todd May, captain of #5 seeded Toros. "San Diego has a special opportunity, to not only bring a single team to Gay Bowl XI, but to bring two teams ranked in the top five after the official seeding.
"As coach of the San Diego Toros, I feel honored to be part of an amazing collection of athletes who began this journey eight weeks ago as acquaintances and have bonded together to become a cohesive unit. I look forward to showcasing our talent at the tournament and have no doubt that both of the San Diego teams will have tremendous success in Houston!"
SDAFFL Commissioner Mike Paganelli agreed.
"The San Diego community would be proud of the way that we are representing our community at such a large event," he said. "Our program is one of the best in the nation. Because we have a dedicated board, a strong community of sponsors and a loyal group of supporters, many of whom are making the trek to Houston with us, we are able to attract some of the best talent that makes up our coaching staff and players. And as you can see from our two top seeded teams, we’ve got some serious talent! We are very fortunate in San Diego.
"Our mantra for this tournament has been 3 days, 2 teams and 1 mission," Paganelli continued. "The mission being to bring the championship trophy back to San Diego and we have never been in a better position to make this a reality!"
Regardless of which deserving and capable San Diego team you root for, the key to winning can be summed up in the quote from legendary professional football coach Vince Lombardi, “Success demands singleness of purpose” and there is no shortage of this for either team!
Three days, Two teams, One mission!
Here is the roster list for the two teams from San Diego headed to Houston for this weekend's big tournament.
San Diego Bolts -- seeded #3
Brannon Batchelor, Junior Buendia, Michael Corrales, Chris Gathman, Kenny Hasselbar, Ryan Hawkins, Jason Hefley, Doug Komlenic, James Lienhard, King Mike, Tommy Miles, Ryan O’Shaughnessy, *John Proctor, Eddie Quintero, Eric Reissner, Rob Simmons, Ivan Solis, Joe Uschmann, Julius Williams
San Diego Toros -- seeded #5
HT Bennett, Brian Bleus, *Steve Calderwood, Nick Colletti, *Brooks Eggerth, Steve Farrow, Aaron Frommeyer, Chris Gabbard, Craig Goida, Todd Kerr, *Eddie Mariani, Todd May, Julio Montano, Alex Otero, *Brett Patrick, *Tyler Searles, *James Velde, *Tyler Younger
*indicates SDAFFL rookies
For more information on Gay Bowl XI such as a listing of teams, and events visit the Gay Bowl XI website.
To follow either the Bolts or the Toros in pool play, visit the tournament's Team Pods and full schedule.
Watch this video of the two teams as they prepare for their road to Houston:
Photos: Top, left: SD Toros; Bottom, left: SD Bolts. All photos courtesy of Joseph Sims, SDAFFL Supporter Extraordinaire
Russ Edra is the PR contact for the SDAFFL. He can be reached at email@example.com.