Kalina Mladenova

Eleven scrappy, lovable, football-playing students stepped onto a bus to a flag football playoff game on Oct. 14. Three weeks later, they walked off the field for the last time as champions. This is the story of JE intramural flag football.

The Spiders of Jonathan Edwards entered the playoffs as heavy underdogs. The team finished the regular season with zero wins, one loss and five forfeits. Expectations couldn’t be any lower. 

But this is intramural flag football. Anything can happen. And on this improbable run, each game was crazier than the last. 

Led by IM Secretaries and Captains Vishnu Sriram ’23 and Maddie Butchko ’24, the group took the field ready to defend JE’s honor against their rivals in Branford in the first round. 

Quarterback Max Sun ’23 led a swift drive down the field to score on the first possession. On Branford’s first offensive play, Andrew Cramer ’25 tipped a pass into Sun’s arms, and he returned the interception for a touchdown. Cramer later threw a touchdown to put the game out of reach. And suddenly, JE had its first playoff football win in years.

Had the story ended there, it would have been one good game. But this wasn’t a fluke; it was the beginning of greatness.

The second-round matchup against Berkeley is when it became clear that this team was special. The game got chippy as the refs chose to allow a little bit of contact. Certain players on each team made a few tackles instead of pulling flags. 

Sources claim that multiple Berkeley players suggested the teams “settle it with a game of real tackle, no refs, after the game.” The benches cleared after a late cheap shot on Sun. But when the dust settled, the Spiders walked off the field with a dominant 22-0 victory.

By the semifinals, the other teams were taking the game seriously. And JE did to an extent. However, some consistent chants heard from the JE sideline included, “Let’s all have fun and do our best,” “We have a really nice tulip garden,” and “At the end of the day we’re all winners.”  

The semifinal matchup against Pauli Murray got interesting because there was no referee for the first half. The LiMurs led for nearly the entire duration of the game. With only a few more plays remaining, Murray led by seven, but JE had possession. The Spiders miraculously managed to score on the last play of the game. 

The Spiders had the choice to go for a one-point conversion to tie or try to win with a two-point conversion. They chose the latter. Due to a strange rule, the quarterback has unlimited time to throw on the two-point conversion. After a penalty nullified their first attempt, Max Sun found Robby Hill ’24 in the corner of the endzone to put JE in the finals.

In the finals, the Spiders faced off against the Walruses — Walri? — of Morse College. Morse meant business. They looked the part of the villains. Everyone wore matching black jerseys with slick chrome writing in red letters. They ran actual plays. They had team huddles and chants. The Spiders were no match. 

Morse won the game convincingly. In fact, they likely deserve to be at the center of this narrative. But this is bigger than the outcome of a silly little football game. 

This is about a group of 11 scrappy, lovable, football-playing students coming together to shock the world. While they technically weren’t champions of intramural football, they were champions of the human spirit. They were proof that you should never let the doubters stop you from achieving your dreams.

“How does he know all of this,” you might ask. I was there. I was on that team. I felt the magic. And while I tried to share that with all of you, frankly, no words can capture what it felt like to be on that field. You had to be there. It was once-in-a-lifetime. Unless we run it back next year. Of the players who showed up to all of those games, none are seniors. So prepare yourselves. It’s the dawn of the JE dynasty.

Andrew Cramer | andrew.cramer@yale.edu

ANDREW CRAMER