For the first time in its 16 years, the Utah Gay Football League brought home a national tournament championship title.
This year UGFL’s tournament team, The Utah Fire, traveled to Gay Bowl XXII in Honolulu, Hawaii, along with 50 other teams from across the U.S. and Canada, and won the Division C title.
Nearly 1,000 flag football traveled to the island of Oahu October 7–9 for the National Gay Flag Football League tournament, making it the largest LGBTQ+ event ever in Hawaii. It was the kick-off to Honolulu Pride Month.
Planning for the 12-field event began years ago. Honolulu was chosen as the host city for 2020, but all that excitement ended when the pandemic forced the Hawaii Gay Flag Football League to cancel.
“We were super disappointed about it, but we also took it as an opportunity to kind of reset ourselves and use this as a learning base,” Gay Bowl XXII Tournament Director Ty Law told Hawaii News Now before the event. “Now we can take it to the next level and complete it for this one.”
“Playing right next to the beach in front of Diamond Head, like, it’s amazing,” Law told Metro Source.
In all, 135 games were played over the three-day event.
UGFL was formed in Salt Lake City in 2006. It is made up of people from the LGBTQ+ community and allies.
In 2019 the Utah Fire team made it to the final game against Washington, D.C., and fell just short of claiming the title that year.
“Honolulu proved to be our year,” said John Maznicki. “The team had been practicing for this since the spring. Finally, we played seven games in three days.
The Utah Fire rematched the D.C. team in the semifinals, beating them, and went on to face San Diego, one of the consistently top teams in the tournament, for the championship.
Ralph Ingersoll, the Utah Fire center and linemen, said, “This is one of the best tournaments I’ve been a part of since our beginning.”
“We all are looking forward to taking this win for Utah and bringing it to the Sin City Classic in January, our local league play this spring and summer, and back to Gaybowl 2023 in Seattle,” Maznicki said.