Their team names were quirky, but their competitive spirits were fierce.
Athletes representing 128 flag football teams, including Giveem The Business, Stick of Butter, Whos Next and The Rugrats, descended on Bank of America stadium this weekend for the 10th Annual Miller Lite Weekend Warrior Tournament.
At stake: a years worth of bragging rights and a personalized custom championship ring. Because its not a football championship without a ring.
Thats one of the most anticipated moments for the teams getting their rings, Riley Fields, the Panthers director of community relations, said. They really wear it with pride because they worked so hard to earn it.
The noncontact event is for ages 21 and older and features four skill divisions (Weekend Warrior, Couch Potato, 35 & Over and Matt and Ramona Co-Ed). The event has sold out every year and is free to spectators.
During the last decade, Weekend Warrior has raised $325,000 for Carolina Panthers Charities.
Members of each division championship team will receive their sized ring during a special on-field ceremony before a Carolina Panthers preseason home game in August, Fields said.
Despite the different skill levels in each division, the competitive intensity is equal in all of them, Fields said. And theres a homecoming feel because a lot of the teams come back each year.
MJ Yee, who participated in the tournament for the first time on the Gone Ape team, said she was most impressed with the weekend tournaments facilities.
Its really amazing to get a chance to come in the stadium and play on the actual field, Yee said. And to see yourself on the Jumbotron thats pretty cool.
For many players in such Charlotte-area associations as Sports Connection, Weekend Warrior is a highlight of the year and something they spend weeks preparing for, said Becky Reed, who also played on the Gone Ape team.
Its gotten much more competitive, Reed said. We look forward to it all year.
Spectators during Sundays championship games were particularly vocal, shouting encouraging words to players, such as good defense, and jumping up and down when a loved one scored.
Theyre killing it, said Julie Stoner while watching her friends on the Comin to Git Ya team play in the co-ed championship. Every game they play, theyve been dominating. Theyve been strong, dominant and confident.
Comin to Git Ya ultimately won the co-ed championship. Walking off the field, player Laura Megahee said she was looking forward to getting her third championship ring that shes won in the five years shes attended the tournament.
This is your pride for the whole year, she said.
Daniel Williams, who also competed on Comin to Git Ya, said he is looking forward to showing off his new championship ring at Bank of America, where he works as an employment manager.
Williams said he keeps coming back year after year because of the events great organization and the camaraderie among competitors. In fact, most of them play with each other each week through organizations such as Sports Connection.
After a competitive weekend like the Weekend Warrior Tournament, Williams said it usually takes Charlottes flag football players a couple weeks to come down off the adrenaline rush. But its all in good fun, he added.
It probably takes a week and a half for everybody to be really good friends again, he said. Like today, we probably wont go to the same bar to celebrate.
Arriero: 704-804-2637 On Twitter: @earriero
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