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Intramural Wire: NJ Takes Home Flag Football Crown

The J-Nation Squad defeats OF for intramural football championship title.

It is a fact of HBS intramural life that RC sections do not win championships. They are almost always shunted aside by their own inexperience, overwhelmed by the gamesmanship of the ECs or undone by the sheer number of participants that unwary captains invite to the games.

None of these clich‚s held for NJ, which took home the intramural championship in Flag Football this month, beating OF by a score of 40 to 26. The win capped a season of almost unfathomable preeminence for the J-Nation squad, which scored more than 320 points over eight games while allowing only 90. Such dominance has few peers-one (partial) observer compared it to an EC getting offers from ten buyout funds, a clueless RC winning an Airtime Award three weeks in a row, or to the career matrix of Tim Keller.

The championship game was held on the muddy, blustery intramural pitch behind the football stadium. Consecutive days of driving rain and hard fought playoff games had trampled the grass into a World War I battlefield, and this reporter expected a slow, defensive struggle. Such a contest seemed to favor OF, with its tightly knit passing attack and experience, over the untested, speed driven NJ assault.

This prediction was immediately turned on its head. Dave “Win First, Make Friends Later” Kreter hit Ben “Baby Steps” Russell on a deep slant with his first throw, and six seconds later NJ led 6-0. A quick two-point conversion later and a stunned OF took the field already trailing by 8.

But OF had a strong, battle tested team. A cadre of talented receivers was led by quarterback Thomas Parker, who, despite an injured knee, was a quick scrambler and accurate passer who could dissect a defense with his arms or his legs. Indeed OF moved the ball well, leveraging the quickness of Roberto Young and Quan Nguyen, and the sure hands of Missy Blakeley.

Unfortunately for OF, there was no countering the NJ attack. Working from a simple but elegant playbook of slants and curls, Kreter and his receivers marched up and down the field, scoring on all but one of their possessions. Touchdown passes to Shane “Taller than He Looks” Bills, several key completions to Wells “Beirut” Bullard, and a couple of Kreter scrambles led to a 20-6 halftime lead for the RCs.

In the second half, as it had all season, NJ’s stifling defense frustrated their opponents. While Parker consistently completed passes underneath the NJ zone, defenders relentlessly pursued the speedy OF receivers after the catch, limiting their yards and forcing the ECs to embark on a series of hard fought, clock eating drives they could ill afford. At the line of scrimmage, NJ relied on the unique strategy of putting a former management consultant (Joe “Pit Dive” Robbins) on the quarterback, ensuring that OF was forced to throw on the move on almost every play.

With five minutes to play and NJ up 34-20, OF made a last bid. Fighting through the growing darkness and the ever changing blitz patterns of the NJ front, Parker drove OF down the field on a series of quick crossing routes, stretching out the defense and putting the NJ secondary on its heels.

Twenty yards from the NJ end zone and a chance to claw back into the game, OF’s Nguyen took a pass across the middle and, dodging the OJ linebacker, made a diagonal beeline for the goal line. He had only gone four steps when he was caught from behind by Annie “Be the Ball” Bercovich, who launched herself into an airborne, head first dive, snagged the flag, and then splashed back down into one of the innumerable muddy puddles littering the field. As the crowd erupted, the stunned EC receiver jogged slowly into the end zone, disbelieving, refusing to turn around and see the jubilant, mud splattered NJ squad celebrating behind him.

December 11, 2006
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