Video by Michael Ewen
For many sports fans, the kickoff between the Pittsburg Steelers and Tennessee Titans marked the beginning of their favorite time of the year: football season. At St. Thomas, the real start to the season isn’t the NFL’s first game or even the opening game for the Tommie varsity football team.
The real season started Monday, Sept. 21, with the field goal kicking contest that “kicked off” the annual intramural football league. About 10 contestants came to show off their talents but freshman Jeff Thompson won the contest with a field goal of 45 yards.
Anyone questioning the seriousness of the league needs only to look down to Palmer Field on weeknights to see the level of intensity that is brought to the game. According to senior league coordinator Allen Clark, a player once tore ligaments in his knee and refused to have an ambulance called or be immediately taken to the hospital. Instead, he was carried to the bench so he could watch the rest of the game and make sure his team won before finally going to the emergency room.
“Things get real out there in a hurry,” said junior Peter Burnham of the Zulu Nation team. “When you step out on the field, nobody is messing around.”
This year, anywhere from 40 to 50 teams are expected to compete for the coveted title of intramural champion. Last year’s champion, the Hoagies, return to defend its title against a league that features hundreds of St. Thomas’ finest intramural athletes. Numbers are down slightly from last year’s 72 teams which is thought to be one of the most ever. Clark said he expected the Tuesday/Thursday league to round out to about 25 teams, while the Monday/Wednesday will go through the season with about 20.
On game nights, Palmer Field is divided in two, and games are simultaneously played on 55-yard fields. A running clock in two 15-minute halves keeps the six-on-six games moving at a quick pace. With so many teams to organize, Clark said the goal is to get each team six games before starting the playoffs.
Throughout the regular season, weekly “Power Rankings” are released, ranking teams based on records and point differentials. Playoff seeding is based on the rankings, so teams take no shame in running up the score late in games to increase its point difference and move up the charts.
“If you’re playing some scrub team and running them off the field, you’re not going to let up,” Burnham said. “You want to win by as much as possible every week.”
Referee crews this season will have three referees per field, with one in charge of calling penalties in the secondary, one watching the line of scrimmage and one keeping the clock. Clark said referee enforcement of student ID cards will be stepped up this year.
“We’ve had some problems in the past, so this year we’re going to be really careful about monitoring who’s playing,” he said. “Anyone caught playing for two teams is going to be kicked out of the league.”
Jordan Osterman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org