Muddas win 21st Mud Bowl title, mauling Mud Sharks 30-0
CONWAY — As late Yankees catcher Yogi Berra would say, it was a bit of “deja vu all over again” on Sunday at the Championships of Mud Football at Steve Eastman Memorial Field at North Conway’s Hog Coliseum.
That’s because, as happened last year, the Muddas Football Club of Amherst again met the 2005 champion North Shore Mud Sharks of Massachusetts in the Mud Bowl finals, trouncing them in an impressive display of muddy finesse by a score of 30-0 to capture their 21st North Conway championship since entering the league in 1981.
Three teams also competed in the first-ever Women’s Mud Bowl Tourney, with the Mass Women Mud Dogs playing two local squads, the MudMaids and MerMuds. A women’s final was played Sunday at 3 p.m. between the MerMuds and MudMaids.
Led by QB Katelyn Quint, the MudMaids were undefeated, compiling a 3-and-0 record and downing the MudMuds 12-6 in Sunday’s finals.
In the championship game, Quint scored the first touchdown, but the MerMaids answered back with a touchdown pass from Amanda King to Mel Gregory to tie the game 6-6.
The MudMaids fought back down the field after an interception by Alyssa Chick, for a touchdown pass from Quint to Bethany Moller to seal the win.
Back on the men’s side, the Muddas’ victory was a repeat of last year’s outcome, when they beat the Mud Sharks by an equally convincing score of 38-6 in the finals of the three-day, 12-team, double-elimination tourney.
On Sunday, then 2-0 Muddas went into the final round of eight games as top seeds.
Led by quarterback Jay Holder, son of legendary and still active quarterback Jason “Dr. J” Holder, the Muddas scored 122 points and allowed just 20 in their five victories.
“This was a thrill for us to win our 21st title here,” said Holder, holding aloft the trophy as he was surrounded by Muddas teammates and cheerleaders. “It was all about teamwork.”
His dad, still fit at age 72, threw for a touchdown in the team’s semifinal 20-0 win over the Mud Things in Game 18. He echoed his son’s comments, adding, “We want to thank the community for welcoming us all these years and for our friend Steve (late Mud Bowl co-organizer Steve Eastman) for inviting us here in the first place nearly 40 years ago. Mud Bowl is about family, and we’ve got third-generation players now playing.”
On the field, the Muddas were up to their usual bag of tricks, mixing up short passes and runs with an occasional longer pass, combined by great defense led by Jay Holder’s brother, Ryan Holder.
The Mud Sharks featured former Nashua Gumbys quarterback and Hall of Famer Christopher “Cleatus” Cayer as their QB and compiled a record of 4 and 1.
Third-seeded, 11-time champion Mount Washington Valley Hogs were led by quarterback Tommy Wagner, reaching the semifinals before losing to the Mud Sharks 18-6, to finish the tournament with three wins and one loss.
The relatively new North Conway Mud Things team, led by Joe McCusker and Blair Lynch, were the fourth seeds, ending with a 2-and-2 record, losing to the Muddas, 20-0.
The third local team, two-time champion Jason Veno- and Chris Olds-led North Country Crocs, finished 1-and-2, claiming victory over the Massachusetts Mud Dogs 12-6 on Friday but losing to the Mud Sharks on Saturday 22-20, then being ousted in a locals match-up against the Hogs Sunday by a score of 20-14.
In that loss to the Hogs, it looked like the game was headed to overtime with the score tied at 14-14, but the Hogs scored at the buzzer on a pass from Wagner to Tony Day, who then passed to Timmy Flynn for the reception in the end zone to snag the win.
“It was a good tournament for us, even though we lost in that final second,” said Olds. “From an event standpoint, we were very happy with how things went.”
Like Veno, Olds is a member of the Mud Bowl Committee of volunteers that organizes the event as an annual fundraiser for the North Conway Community Center, Carroll County Retired Senior Volunteer Program and Vaughan Learning Center.
Olds said good weather was a positive factor, with passing showers holding off until Saturday night. Opening day Friday saw sunny skies and the usual sparse crowd. There were cloudy skies for the 37th Tournament of Mud Parade through North Conway Village on Saturday morning. But they cleared, with good crowds that day, and things ended up with sunny, breezy conditions Sunday.
“I think having the women’s tournament brought the crowds over on Saturday when they played after the parade and on Sunday. The crowds Sunday were the biggest we’ve had in a while,” said Olds, who was among the players and volunteers who were inducted into the Mud Bowl Hall of Fame this year.
Other local Hall of Fame inductees were late linebacker Bob “Tanaka” Tara of the early Hogs teams; Crocs mascot Joe Medeiros; Zac Quinn and Rob Peterson of the Hogs; 12-year security volunteer Tracy Hart; and 2009 inductee Jon Belkin’s longtime co-announcer Brian Martin.
Winners of the spirit award were the Muddas cheerleaders, followed by the MWV Hoggettes.
Awarded this year’s Mud Bowl scholarship in honor of late fan Jim Rasicot was Mathew Mansfield of Georgetown, Mass., who intends to study culinary arts at North Shore Community College. He is the brother of last year’s recipient and a son of a former Mud Sharks player, also named Mark Mansfield. Uncle Tim Mansfield still plays for the team.
In Saturday’s parade, sponsored by Mud Bowl’s overall sponsor, Amoskeag Beverages LLC of Bow, Mud Bowl honored as grand marshals first responders (represented by Conway Police, North Conway Fire Department and CarePlus). This year’s featured a theme of “Mudeo Games.”
In the Open Class, first place was awarded to the Kennett High Dance Team; second were the Mudbassadors and third went to the KHS Drum Line. In the Team Class, the Nashua Mud Gumbys were first, followed by the North Conway Mud Things in second and third went to the North Country Mud Crocs.
Last year’s event raised $34,000 for Mud Bowl’s beneficiaries.
Monica Belkin of the Mudbassaadors and Mud Bowl Committee said weekend totals are still being tabulated, but officials hope revenue for local non-profits to be up this year.
“Our food sales were up by $1,000 over last year, so we were very happy,” said Carrie Burkett, new general manager of the North Conway Community Center, which oversees food sales at each year’s Mud Bowl.
“It was a great weekend — great crowds and great games by the women and the men,” added Veno.
Next year will celebrate the 45th year of the founding of the MWV Hogs and the 44th year of Mud Bowl being played in Mount Washington Valley — the Hogs won their first championship in Kingfield, Maine, in 1975.
In those days, the team that won got to host the following year’s Mud Bowl; hence, Mud Bowl first came to the valley in 1976 and was played in a cornfield off West Side Road.
Hog Coliseum was built in 1981, and the games have been played there every year since. For more, go to northconwaycommunitycenter.org, or find them on Facebook.