When former Marana High School teammates Toby Bourguet and Sean Roebuck agreed to play on a competitive flag football team, little did they know it was going to drastically changed their lives. More importantly, it changed their children’s lives.
While at that tournament the two longtime friends noticed several youth teams, a few with players the same age as their sons. The two decided to get their kids, as well as the sons of other friends and family members together so the kids and the dads could compete in the same tournaments. Seven years later that team, as well as subsequent teams made up of younger siblings, have won over 600 games, won 10 national titles and countless local, regional and state titles.
That first team finished second and a year later won their first national title.
The teams, now sponsored by Bourguet’s company Tucson Turf, had a remarkable year. What was once a single 10U team, is now five youth teams and earlier this year all five teams took home national titles. The Tucson Turf Elite swept all five age groups at the Hike It and Spike It National Tournament in Roswell, NM over Memorial Day weekend. The tournament is the world’s largest flag football tournament and has never had all five youth titles won by the same organization.
“In all, there were 570 teams and almost 4,000 players on 39 fields in this tournament and teams came from all over the United States,” explained Mike Masunas, who assists with the program. “In addition to the five youth divisions won by Tucson Turf, there were 34 other age divisions for males, females and co-ed teams.”
They also won a single title in 2002 and three titles in 2013. This year’s 15U team has been together since the start and won a national title at the 2007 Deion Sanders National Tournament, another of the biggest tournaments in the world.
This has been a successful season all the way around for Tucson Turf. In addition to the five titles, the teams won two titles at the 2014 Glendale Big Red Tournament, an NFL sponsored flag football tournament. They also competed in a few different passing league tournaments. Passing league is very similar to flag football, but uses the same format that high school offseason tournaments use. First the U15 team went to Las Vegas and won the Pylon Super Regional 7 on 7 Jr. High Championship.
Then to really test his players, Bourguet took a handful of junior high players, a couple of freshmen to be and went to Show Low to compete in a high school passing league tournament. The team more than held their own, advancing to the semi-finals and further bolstering their confidence.
The team closed out the summer by heading to California to play in another national tournament. They learned of the tournament late in the summer, and Bourguet already had planned on taking his three sons to the Elite 11 Quarterback Camp in Oregon. The Bourguets flew to southern California from Oregon and met the team there. The impromptu nature of the trip did not seem to mater as they took home another tournament title against teams from across the nation.
The secret to the team has been continuity. The team has not only plays together year after year, but they have been able to play together in local leagues as well as in the major tournaments. Their success on the field has bred some who resent them, but Bourguet has tried to not only win games, but make Tucson and Marana proud.
“The thing that I want to tell the people who don’t like us, the haters if you will, is that we take pride in representing Tucson,” Toby Bourguet said. “Every tournament we go to we get compliments about our sportsmanship. Not just the kids, but the parents and coaches as well.
“We learn that good sportsmanship makes you a great man,” said Trenton.”We try to show good sportsmanship during and even after games. That means picking up trash and helping out other teams.”
“We try to team them a lot about life skills, more so than football skills,” the elder Bourguet said.
That is not to say that football is not a focus. The teams go through detail oriented practices that Toby has dubbed boring, but that repetition pays off on game day.
“We believe the point of competition is to win,” Bourguet said. “We want to win the right way, with class and good sportsmanship, but we want to win. We’ll pick you up of the ground. We’ll don’t talk trash, but we try to win.”
That continuity, especially for the 15U team, means that they are rarely phased. Last year they rallied from 12 down in the final four minutes during a game at the Roswell Tournament and in Showlow they were down18-0 to Higley, a Phoenix area powerhouse, in the first five minutes, but rallied to win the game 32-32.
“There is no situation that these kids have not overcome over the last 6-7 years,” Toby Bourguet explained.
The success of these teams could play dividends down the line. The bulk of the 15U team has been playing together at the middle school level and will continue on to Marana High School. Considering they have won at every level they have played at, the future may be bright for the Tigers.