Head in the Game’s FIFA Tournament: A Rousing Success

 By Owen D. (‘19)

Head in the Game, a student-run, pending non-profit organization, made its triumphant return to Crystal Springs on Saturday October 22nd.

The organization promoted and organized the Head in the Game FIFA 17 Tournament, a video game tournament held in the Gryphon Center. The tournament, run by sophomores Alex Wei (‘19), Justin Chang (‘19) and myself, was open to students of all ages from different schools, high school and middle school included. The event, like all Head in the Game events, was centered around raising money for concussion research, a worthy cause that everyone can get behind––especially Patti.

The event was filled with drama and excitement from start to finish. All 24 teams, which consisted of two people per team, first participated in a pool play stage, in which each team played a minimum of three games. The favorites entering the tournament, Alex W. and Brandon Chu (‘17) (Alex W. made it to the finals in the first iteration of the tournament last year and Brandon was a part of the winning team), lost one of their early group stage matches to an 11th grade team, killing their  chances of grabbing the #1 seed in the single elimination stage of the tournament following the pool play stage. The top seed would have guaranteed them a first-round bye and a chance to play one of the worst teams from pool play, as performance in pool play determined seeding, but it was not to be for the 10th and 12th graders. That early loss, however, might have turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as the first overall seed had some trouble in their first single elimination match.

Seniors Alex Laubscher (‘17) and Matt Mizota (‘17) started on top after a surprisingly strong showing in pool play and after their bye were matched up against a pair of 6th graders. The 6th grade team, self-dubbed #BESTIES, one of many middle school teams in the tournament, was manned by Luke Iannuccilli (‘23)  and Billy Johnson (‘23), who had barely made it out of pool play, and sneaked into single elimination as the 16th seed. When the two teams walked up to their seats to play on the big screen in GC1, almost everyone assumed that Alex L. and Matt would grab the easy win and advance on to the later rounds of the tournament. But with everyone gathered around, Luke and Billy put on an absolute show, and soon they were just toying with the 12th grade team. It seemed that every time the 12th graders would get close to scoring, #BESTIES had already stolen the ball and were running down the flanks in an aggressive counterattack. After a hard fought 90 minutes of game time (which was only 12 minutes in real life), Luke and Billy walked away victorious, pulling off the biggest upset in Head in the Game history.

After the craziness of that match, the intensity in the Gryphon Center classrooms picked up a notch. Each remaining pair knew that they had to work hard to grab a win regardless of seeding, and the fans seemed to know that too, as they intensely cheered on their friends. As the field got smaller and smaller, the early favorites Alex W. and Brandon, who had stumbled a tad in the early goings, started to really find their groove. They tore through their opponents in single elimination and made it to the finals.

The finals were positively electric. Everyone who attended the tourney, over 50 people, packed into GC1 to watch Alex W. and Brandon take on Eric LeBlanc (‘18) and Alex Berman (‘18), the team that had beaten them in pool play. It was a rematch for the ages, and it lived up to the hype.

A hard fought 90 minutes ended up in a 1-1 tie, so the teams proceeded to go into extra time. In extra time, both teams played some excellent defense, and no goals were scored, leading to the most dramatic finish possible. Penalty kicks!

All four players leaned forwards in their seats and wiped sweat off their brows. The grand prize was a brand new Borussia Dortmund Marco Reus home jersey and a new San Jose Earthquakes scarf per winner. However, the prize came with lofty bragging rights, so the stakes were high.

Alex W. and Brandon were the ones who prevailed in the end, by a score of 4-3 in penalty kicks. The favorites walked away victorious; needless to say, Head in the Game’s second annual FIFA Tournament was full of drama from start to finish.

The event was a great success, and over two hundred dollars was raised for the Stanford Concussion and Brain Performance Center. We from Head in the Game can’t wait to see you all at the Head in the Game volleyball tournament on November 19th.

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