Every January since 2008, flag football enthusiasts in the western communities have hosted, supported, sponsored and participated in a tournament to raise money for the American Cancer Society. This year, the 15th annual Flags for the Cure flag football tournament was held once again at Acreage Community Park.
Nearly 60 teams and more than 600 participants registered to play and compete in this year’s tournament. There were six group divisions: Women’s Open, Women’s 30+, Men’s Open, Men’s Open B, Open Co-Ed and Girls 11 & Under. The action started on the evening of Wednesday, Jan. 5 and concluded on the afternoon of Sunday, Jan. 9. According to event founder Chris Mathews, the tournament attracted 15 teams during its first year and hit a high of 76 teams a few years ago.
While five teams were crowned as champions in the five divisions, the real winner was the American Cancer Society, which was the beneficiary of a $35,000 check from the nonprofit organization that runs the tournament. This brings the total raised for the American Cancer Society over 15 years to $360,000.
“The event is 100 percent volunteer-driven, meaning that every penny raised goes to the American Cancer Society,” event organizer Mike Chase said.
The five division winners this year were: Carnage (Women’s Open), Shyt Show (Women’s 30+), Top 5 (Men’s Open), Vice (Men’s Open B), Anarchy (Open Co-Ed) and Valkyries (Girls 11 & Under).
The best game of this year’s tournament was the Women’s Open final when Carnage beat South Florida 26-20 in triple overtime. The game ended when Carnage quarterback Hayley Young found wide receiver Kennedy Foster in the corner of the end zone for the victory. Young, a Seminole Ridge High School graduate, and Foster, a William T. Dwyer High School graduate, are flag football teammates at Keiser University.
In this tournament, where people are competing to win while raising money for a good cause, some of the team names are rather extreme, creative, clever and appropriate for an event like this. Some of this year’s unique team names included Sour Patch Kids (Girls 11 & Under), Super Gremlins and Bless the Babies (Men’s Open), Breast Intentions (Men’s Open B), Ultimate Rejects (Open Co-Ed), Rack Pack (Women’s Open) and Fight Like a Girl (Women’s 30+).
According to Mathews, the primary reason why this tournament was created and continues to be held is the life-altering impact it has on those who suffer from and recover from cancer.
“I think what has been the most inspirational and, yet tear-jerking part of this event is that you hear all the stories from the people who come up and thank us. They tell us what they’ve been through or who they’re fighting for,” Mathews said. “That keeps us very, very, very inspired.”
One of Mathews’ most vivid memories of the tournament took place in January 2010.
“When we kicked off, it was 35 degrees, and the kids played all day in the weather as the temperatures actually dropped,” he recalled. “Everybody looked like they were a mummy and totally freezing, but nobody would quit. Everybody finished the day. People still talk about that tournament to this day.”
Major sponsors of this year’s tournament were Hubbs Tire & Service, Western Communities Chiropractic, the Acreage Athletic League, Ashurst Air Conditioning, Builtx Land Development, PDQ and Texas Roadhouse. The 16th annual Flags for the Cure tournament is scheduled for Jan. 4-8, 2023, at Acreage Community Park. Learn more about the organization at www.flagsforthecure.com.