Maricopa Community Colleges District police officer Jim Hill preparing to snap the ball during the Battle of the Badges charity flag football game at Mesa Community College on May 4, 2024. (Photo by Adam Terro/ The Mesa Legend)

14th annual Battle of the Badges flag football game hosted at Mesa Community College

A charity flag football game organized by Arizona Law Enforcement Outreach and Support was hosted at the Mesa Community College football stadium on Saturday to raise money for scholarships and injured first responders.

2024 marked the 14th edition of the Hope Charity Battle of the Badges game, a tradition that started when vice-president of AZLEOS Jim Hill still worked as a police officer for the Scottsdale Police Department.

The scholarships were handed out at halftime of the charity game between first responders representing law enforcement from the East valley versus the West valley.

Hill and his wife Cindy started AZLEOS to help first responders in need, putting together events like the charity game in an effort to bridge the gap between the community and law enforcement.

Over 20 sponsors were broken into different donor tiers, with funds going towards paying for fees to organize the event and the scholarships handed out at halftime, according to Hill who left Scottsdale and is now a police officer for the Maricopa Community Colleges District Police Department.

The game was played between the Westside Warriors versus the Eastside Sentinels, with representatives police departments from the Avondale, Gilbert, Glendale, Goodyear, Maricopa Community Colleges, Mesa, Peoria, Phoenix, Salt River and Surprise, as well  the Maricopa County and Pinal County Sheriff’s Offices.

The Arizona Department of Corrections Honor Guard presenting the colors before the Battle of the Badges charity flag football game at Mesa Community College on May 4, 2024. (Photo by Adam Terro/ The Mesa Legend)

Laura Fial singing the national anthem prior to the Battle of the Badges charity flag football game at Mesa Community College on May 4, 2024. (Photo by Adam Terro/ The Mesa Legend)

The rules of the game were as follows:

  • 8 vs. 8 with all players being eligible receivers.
  • First downs are set up every 20 yards and are static.
  • Everyone must be in a two-point stance.
  • No bull rushing during pass rush.
  • One kickoff per half, other changes of possession due to scoring start on the 20 yard line.
  • No field goals. A five yard conversion scores one point, a 10 yard conversion scores two points and a 15 yard conversion scores three points.
  • A 12 minute running clock will be used for four quarters, with each team having three timeouts per half to stop the clock.

Many of the rules were meant to limit injury, as the charity game is meant to bring the community together rather than field a competitive flag football game. 

The Warriors got the ball first and promptly drove down the field and scored, led at quarterback by Gerrit Groenewold of Surprise PD, but were unable to convert the extra point.

The Sentinels would answer with a drive of their own as receivers Shane Leeper and Boyd Mox, both not on the original rosters and added before kickoff, showed off impressive athleticism. The Sentinels converted on an extra point attempt and took a 7-6 lead.

A big sack by Mox the next Warrior’s drive put them far behind pace for a first down, and the possession would end in a turnover on downs.

The Sentinels would extend their lead to 14-6 after another score on a reception by Leeper.

During halftime, AZLEOS handed out $250 scholarships to Brandon Smith, Kymora Southerland, MD Zobaer Hossen and Florian Nguyen, students in first responder programs at Mesa Community College.

Natsuki Saballos also received the first ever AZLEOS Vinny Gravelli Memorial Scholarship, named after police officer Vincent Gravelli who passed away on March 28, 2023.

The scholarships are meant to help students who wish to pursue a career as a first responder and foster investment into youth entering the field, according to Hill.

The Warriors were able to get a big sack by Brandon Kay of Surprise PD, but it did not stop the Sentinel’s offense as they overcame the lost yardage and scored on a screen for Mox in the redzone to go up 21-6.

Salt River Police Department officer Delvin Duong and Boyd Mox celebrating a big play for the Eastside Sentinels during the Battle of the Badges charity flag football game at Mesa Community College on May 4, 2024. (Photo by Adam Terro/ The Mesa Legend)

The competitiveness ramped up in the fourth quarter, as the Sentinels were flagged for roughing due to tackling the opponent rather than pulling their flag.

The Warriors took advantage of the flag as they would score on the ensuing play on a deep pass into the corner of the endzone to Joseph Cortez of Glendale PD. The two point try would be unsuccessful, making it a 21-12 game.

A nine point possession would still be possible with the rules allowing a three point try after a touchdown.

However the Sentinels would milk the clock down before a diving catch by Leeper on the sidelines set up another screen pass to Mox for a touchdown, bringing the lead to 27-12 after a failed extra point attempt.

The game would end on a hail mary interception by Ernie Pina II of Phoenix PD.

The next AZLEOS next community event will be the Shop with a Cop event held in the winter for Christmas, according to Hill.

  • Adam Terro

    Adam Terro is the Sports Editor for the Mesa Legend. He joined the staff in January 2021 and first published with the Legend in fall 2020. His passion is for sports, specifically football and basketball.

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