RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas –
Flag football trophies have piled up for the Randolph Bravehearts team that represents Team Randolph in city-, state- and national-level competitions year-round.
A two-day, weekend tournament at Fort Sam Houston was the latest action for the Bravehearts, a team comprised of active-duty military members stationed at Randolph. The tournament - the Texas Shootout XIII - was historic in that it was the first time the squad had advanced to the second day of competition.
"We've accomplished a lot with this group and we are a competitive group," said Winsome Culley, head coach. "We've accomplished a lot."
When not on permissive TDY trips, the touring team incorporates two civilian players and occasionally enters tournaments around the greater San Antonio area.
"Of the 18 on the roster, we get all of them from here," said Culley. "We have open tryouts each year and we didn't cut anybody this last time. There are eight that play offense and eight that play defense, with a few substitutes."
Many of the current players have been involved since 2004 and the team developed into a unit that now competes with many of the A-level teams they see in the various tournaments.
"It's a plus, the more tournaments you play in because it builds continuity for your team," said Varnell Johnson, Bravehearts' offensive veteran. "The longer a team has played together, it becomes second nature. The guys all know what to expect from their teammates. It becomes routine."
Playing in the "B" division, the Bravehearts beat teams from Laredo and Gregory/Portland, lost to a "A" division San Antonio team, and dropped to the lower bracket.
"It was a double-elimination tournament and essentially, they didn't get their second loss until the second day," said Andy Gonzalez, state director of the Texas Flag Football Association, which sponsors many of the events entered by the Bravehearts.
Gonzalez said success in higher-grade flag football tournaments requires an understanding of the rules of the sport.
"It's not just great athletes who do well," he said. "It's people who understand the rules and techniques. There is really supposed to be zero contact at this level, so every player is eligible to receive passes and there is not supposed to be that much blocking. The best teams aren't always the most athletic."
Eric Doggett contributes mostly on offense and has been involved with the Bravehearts for three years. He said the team is developing some continuity of its own, though they deal from time to time with deployments and players who leave because of various assignments.
"We've improved drastically, building some continuity and familiarity with one another," Doggett said. "We put the ranks aside when we are out there playing, though we still maintain the customs and courtesies as if we were on the installation. When we play, it's more about being a team and functioning as a unit."
The Bravehearts will play at Brownsville this weekend in the Texas Amateur Athletic Federation State Championships. A good performance there will enhance the possibility of making it to a national-level tournament in Florida.