PICK SIX PICKS AWAY AT COMPETITION: UMASS INTRAMURAL FLAG FOOTBALL TEAM TAKES ON NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
By Taylor Gilmore
The field lights are on and against a sea of teams dressed in sweatpants and mismatched t-shirts, one intramural flag football team stands out. Dressed in neon uniforms labeled with their logo and individual nicknames, the boys of Pick Six huddle on the sideline and prepare to win another game.
After an undefeated season, Pick Six competed in the UMass Men’s Flag Football Championship on November 14, 2013 at McGuirk Stadium and won for the second consecutive year. They beat Zeta Beta Tau with a final score of 39-0. They scored 359 points overall this season, but had no points scored against them.
Leaders in campus recreation from colleges and universities around the country are invited to compete in a national championship series of flag football and other intramural sports every year. NIRSA, the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association, offers a variety of resources and promotes leadership, fitness, teamwork, and respect in their tournaments.
Pick Six represented UMass in the regional portion of NIRSA’s national championship series in Springfield, MA on November 1-3, 2013. Winning the first round of regional games in Springfield qualified Pick Six for round two of regional competition. They played with over 40 other universities for the Regional Flag Football Championship title in College Park, MD on November 15-17, 2013.
Pick Six decided to compete in Regionals to keep their season going, but were expecting the competition to get a lot tougher. “When we pulled in that day I didn’t even think we were going to make it to playoffs but we dominated, which is kind of crazy,” said Sean Heaney.
The highlight of the trip for Ricky Silva was “being at a different university seven hours away, hanging out, with no where really to stay, having a blast.”
“The whole weekend was exciting,” added Cody Sloniecki. “It was a ball,” said Alex Porter, “my favorite part was surprising everyone, because nobody there thought we were going to win.”
But once again, Pick Six walked away as winners. The boys won all seven of their games, and although they were finally scored on, no team scored on Pick Six during the second half of an elimination game. They returned to UMass with a trophy, the title of Regional Champions, a bid to nationals, and even a few medals. Joe Johnson, Kevin Pomerleau and Matthew Schell won All Tournament Awards, and Schell received the award for Most Valuable Player.
“We’re all washed up athletes with nothing better to do,” said Joe Johnson. “This is our time to shine, and we did,” Kevin Pomerleau added. Although they may be older now, the Pick Six boys have an impressive past in athletics. Many of the boys were award winners and high school captains and team members for various sports. Silva was a two year basketball captain and three year tennis captain, earning countless awards including all state and all conference in tennis and all conference and 1000 point scorer in basketball. Schell was a two year football captain and all conference winner, as well as basketball captain his senior year. Heaney was all conference in basketball, as well as captain for basketball and baseball. Sloniecki and Fung were all conference in basketball in their junior and senior years, and Matt Fung was team captain for 2 years. Sloniecki also played lacrosse and baseball. Ryan Imbriaco played volleyball and and basketball, and Ellis Casler played football basketball and baseball. At UMass, West, Fung, Imbriaco, Sloniecki, and Casler play on the Women’s Basketball scrimmage team, playing against the team at their practices.
Their background as athletes has given Pick Six a leg up on the competition, but their spirit and friendship off the field is what makes them such successful teammates on the field. “Most teams we play are teammates. We consider each other brothers. We do everything together,” said Silva. “We just happen to have really athletic friends,” explained Ryan Imbriaco.
When asked why they are so good, the unanimous response was “chemistry.” “We just have fun,” Pomerleau, said, “we went into every game looser than every other team.”
“All the other teams were on the field warming up and we were dancing on the sidelines,” added Joe Johnson.
A member of another UMass intramural flag football team, who has played against Pick Six many times over the years had a different view of the team’s pre game routine. “They do like hurdles and formation stretching that that nobody else really does. They have their headphones in, they’re getting into it. For intramurals that’s a little intense for me, but they seem like they’re ready to play,” said Tony Bolduc, a member of the intramural football team, the Blackouts. “I know from playing them that they actually are good.”
“We have a lot of people who are serious, and we also have a lot of people who just want to have fun. Us winning makes us so much better,” explained Matthew Schell.
Bolduc added, “if they started to lose they would all start screaming at each other, but that rarely happened because they outscored their opponents by like 300 points in men’s league.”
Pick Six began with seven of the current team members four years ago. Over time, the number of students affiliated with Pick Six grew. “Now we have 14 guys, and seven girls, but we have the Pick Six family that all have t-shirts. So there’s about 20 plus of us,” Silva explained.
Everyone in Pick Six has a nickname that is written on the back of their shirt, including members that don’t play on a team but are part of the “family.” “They are all pretty random,” said Porter, “they were said once and sort of just stuck.” Nicknames range from variations of last names, to inside jokes, like “Imbri” for Ryan Imbriaco, to “Ya Boi” for Alex Porter.
Pick Six is a name that “just stuck,” too. In football, an interception is often called a “pick” and a touchdown is six points. When a player on the defense intercepts the ball and returns it for a touchdown, it is considered a pick six. “We have no personal ties to the name,” explained Sloniecki, “but because our defense is our strongest part of the team, we often force opponents to throw pick six’s.”
Pick Six is known for their flag football skills in the men’s league. “They were definitely good. They were fast. They were quick to grab their flags. They seem like they know what they’re doing better than everyone else,” said Bolduc.
The team has also had an impressive intramural record in soccer and basketball, and with their co-rec teams. The Pick Six co-rec flag football team also won the UMass Intramural Championship this year, and the men’s basketball team made it all the way to the Championship game last season. The boys who started Pick Six are still students at UMass, but this fall was their final season playing men’s flag football altogether. Competing in the National Championship would be an impressive legacy to leave behind.
Pick Six is seeking help from friends and family to compete in Nationals and continue their winning streak. NIRSA waived the tournament entry fee since Pick Six won the Regional Championship, but travel expenses, including hotels and airfare, are still a large burden on the group.
On Facebook and Twitter they have been advertising their cause, posting messages with a link to their donation page, hoping to receive some funding from their supporters. They have also reached out to media organizations in the area to help spread the word.
“We are all hard-working college students who are looking to accomplish something amazing and represent our school in the meantime,” they wrote on their gofundme page, “every cent matters and we thank you in advance for your support.”
So far, the donation page has been shared 139 times, and they have raised $2,359 of their $5,000 goal. Many of the bids are accompanied by words of encouragement and best wishes. Only time will tell how successful their funding efforts will be, but if they reach their goal, UMass could have National Flag Football Champions on their roster. ###