They’re not your conventional football team, but they sure can play.
Late last month, members of Goin’ Deep, a women’s flag football team from Sam Houston State, traveled to Pensacola, Fla. On New Year’s Eve, they brought home a national championship trophy from the 27th annual American Collegiate Intramural Sports Flag Football Championships.
“I’m really proud of this team because they worked really hard to win the national championship,” Goin’ Deep coach Danny Bennett said. “They had a lot to deal with. They had to juggle going to class and work with practice and playing football, and what they accomplished was amazing.”
Team members include Tabitha Brown, Sam Buddleman, Sara Gatlin, Courtney Hoke, Ashley Kirkland, Heather Langley, Annie Miller, Tamara Nichols, Lucy Ramon, Sara Saldana, Ashley Swim, Jamie Tomasini, April Ward and Arica Washington.
While at the national tournament, Goin’ Deep had little trouble showing the rest of the field who was the best. In pool play, the squad representing SHSU blasted Old Dominion 27-0 and Kentucky 42-0. Then in the first round of bracket play, Goin’ Deep toppled Austin Peay 34-6 and followed it up with a 27-6 victory over rival Stephen F. Austin.
The win over SFA marked the fourth straight year Goin’ Deep made an appearance in the final four. The team finished third in 2002 and 2003, and was runner-up in 2004.
Goin’ Deep just couldn’t find a way to get over the hump. But that all changed in ’05.
In the semifinal game, Goin’ Deep pummeled Georgia Southern 28-2 to set up a showdown with defending national champion Southern University from Baton Rouge, La. When the dust settled, Goin’ Deep was the new king of women’s intramural football with a 28-13 win.
“(Southern) has always been our rival. They have been in the final four as much as we have, and we really wanted to beat them,” Tomasini said. “It felt so great to beat them in the final. We finally realized this year that we had the talent to win it all, so we made sure to practice hard and finally put it all together.”
Nichols, who was the team’s quarterback, was named offensive most valuable player at nationals, and Ward was the defensive MVP. Miller and Swim were selected first-team defensive All-American, and Tomasini made the first-team offense.
Goin’ Deep won the SHSU Recreational Sports championship back in October and later traveled to the Texas regional. There, the team lost in the championship game to North Texas. It would be the team’s only loss of the year to go along with 23 victories.
There are four regional tournaments across the country that pay for the top two finishers at each to go to the national championships. So Goin’ Deep went up the road to the University of Nebraska in Lincoln to take part in a regional tournament. There the team rolled to a 5-0 record, not allowing a single score on the way to winning the regional and a trip to nationals.
Goin’ Deep has several former SHSU athletes on the squad, players who have been around since the first final four team in 2002.
And for players like Nichols whose careers has come to a close, this was a perfect ending to years of dedication.
“It’s hard to put my feelings into words,” Nichols said. “This is just an awesome way to finish my flag football career. I was one of the first players when this team started, and this was by far the easiest (to win with) team we have had. Everybody did their part and everybody was a great player.
“Our defense was awesome, and I could count on everybody I threw the ball to. None of this could have been possible without Danny Bennett. He took us to the next level and made us a great flag football team.”