No matter who you are, if you want to play football in Madison, there’s likely a team for you
The Blaze women's football team started two years ago in Madison.
PHOTO COURTESY OF MADISON BLAZE
Tiffany Loomis is one of four co-owners of the Madison Blaze women’s football team. She’s played football for nine years, and helped found the Blaze two years ago.
“A group with a passion for the game saw an opportunity to keep women’s football in Madison,” she says.
The team is open to all women ages eighteen and up, and women from all types of backgrounds participate. There are players of various ethnicities, ages up to late forties, single, married, gay and straight women and couples, including Loomis and her wife Heather.
The Blaze won the Midwest Division championship in 2013, the team’s first year of play. “We only had two losses,” exults Loomis. “But the organization is a business first. We really look out for our players and their experience with the team—we make sure they have top of the line equipment and locker room facilities.”
Julie Busche, the program’s marketing and public relations director, has been involved with football for four years. “Tiffany and I have been great friends for sixteen years, and she contacted me when she was fundraising for another team,” says Busche.
Many Blaze players are from Madison, but the team draws women from all over Wisconsin, she notes. “One player transferred from a Wausau team. She had friends here and decided she wanted to play with us, so she moved down and found a new job.”
The program requires participants to volunteer a certain number of hours each season as individuals and also with the team. “We split the players, coaches and manage-
ment into groups and do fundraising for player fees as well as for community service,” Busche says. “We do lawn care and fall cleanup for people, and we accept donations if they’re willing, but we volunteer if they can’t pay.”
Team members also volunteer for Boys and Girls Club events, food pantries and many other organizations. “For the Madison Mini-Marathon and the Girl Scouts of Dane County Mud Run we helped on the courses, handing out water,” says Busche. “We try to partner with as many local women’s and girls’ organizations as we can.
“We not only help them, but they volunteer at our games,” she continues. “We use the Boys and Girls Club facility for offseason practice, and then our girls work one on one with the Club’s girls, teaching them about football and staying fit. Our players really enjoy it.”
Loomis’s goal is to win the division championship again this year, and with a few more players, she believes the Blaze will prevail. Games run from April to July, with the Independent Women’s Football League Super Bowl to be held in Texas.
Loomis encourages all interested women to consider joining the team. “Our coaches are phenomenal at developing players for roles they’d never have thought of playing,” she says
Noah Williams doesn’t remember a time when football wasn’t a part of his life. From childhood games to the Memorial High School team to his joining the Madison Mustangs as a linebacker in 2010, he’s always loved the game.
PHOTO BY NOAH WILLMAN
There’s a strong fit between player and team, and coach Adam Smith describes Williams as very team-oriented. “He’s progressed so much as a player over the past four seasons,” says Smith. “Because of his elevated play, other team members look to him for support.”
Williams was voted player of the week a number of times last season, but that’s not what motivates him. “I don’t really care about awards; I play for the team,” he emphasizes. “I love my team.
Founded in 1998, the Mustangs were originally known as the Pardeeville Seminoles, traveling to Milwaukee every weekend for competition. In 2006, Madison lawyer Bob Gingras took over, and the Mustangs were born in 2007. From 2008 to 2011, the ’Stangs bulldozed all other teams in the Ironman Football League.
This past October, the Mustangs played for their fifth straight league title, and their first in the Mid-States Football League, against the Chicago Mustangs.
During the championship game, played in Kenosha at Indian Trail High School and Academy, the Mustangs overcame several hardships—including injuries to some of their best players—to come out ahead, 18 to 7.
“It was a close game, a real close game,” Williams says. “But we were able to get the team back together and win the championship.”
It may be his last one as a Mustang. Williams plans to return to school this fall and complete his criminal justice degree. “I want to get the degree so I can enter the police force and be a helpful hand in the community,” he says.