Ringling 'Fighting Armadillos' squash New College in spring football benefit game

rdymond@bradenton.comApril 7, 2014 

SARASOTA -- The history of New College of Florida, which dates back to its founding on Oct. 11, 1960, is filled with landmark events, such as its designation by the Florida legislature as "Honors College for the state of Florida" on July 1, 2001.

Nearby Ringling College of Art and Design boasts of an equally impressive history, including the moment it achieved a two-to-one student to computer ratio, rivaling the computing infrastructure of even Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

But nowhere in these time lines is even the hint of football.

And yet, every year since 2009, students at these two schools, who pride themselves on non-conformity and academics, allow themselves one afternoon to experience what it is like to be a student at the University of Florida or Florida State University during a wild "football" weekend.

The New College/Ringling College Spring Flag Football Championship for charity, which also features water slides, food and a balloon fight, is that afternoon and it played out in 80 degree sunshine at the New College athletic fields Sunday.

"It's the one time we come out and try to be like other schools," said New College student Katie O'Brien, 21.

When the last pass was thrown, the last flag yanked from a player's belt and the last "wave" executed among the crowd of 200, the underdog black-clad Ringling "Fighting Armadillos" had upset their favored rival, the blue-jerseyed New College "Empty Sets," 10-6, on the strength of a touchdown catch by Ringlings' Lucas Davy and a safety.

"We've been waiting for this day," said Ringling middle linebacker and team captain Hunter Thompson who was all over the field making tackles.

Thompson's father is Larry Thompson, president of Ringling College, who was jumping up and down with joy after the game.

New College, led by team captain Michael Long, had won the last several games and still holds a 5-3 lead in the series.

New College President Donal O'Shea allowed himself to be "slimed" following the loss. A cooler of yellow mustard and corn starch was dumped over his head.

Victorious Ringling' players did their pep chant that goes, "Ring what? Ringling! Ring What, Ringling!"

The announcers were hilarious and worth the price of admission. One was Michael Dexter, who created the flag football game between the two schools in 2009. Dexter was joined at the mic by New College's Neal Hargis and Ron Haynes from Ringling.

"The offense out there looks discombobulated," the politically non-correct announcers told the crowd at one point.

Neil Phillips, founder and principal of Visible Men Academy, 921 63rd Ave. E., Bradenton, said he was thrilled that his all-boys Manatee County charter school, which opened in August with 60 students, was the charity chosen to receive about $800.

"We were really honored," said Phillips, whose school's mission is to teach boys selflessness, honesty, integrity, niceness and excellence.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or follow him onTwitter @RichardDymond.

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