Muddas win big at World Championships of Mud FootballBy John Koziol
Union Leader Correspondent September 09. 2018 11:06PM
NORTH CONWAY — For a 44th time on Sunday, the World Championship of Mud Football put the “fun” into fundraising, as the Muddas tromped the North Shore Mud Sharks 38-6, in the process supporting several nonprofits in the Mount Washington Valley.
The first mud bowl was held in 1972 at the University of Maine before moving to its current location in North Conway where it is played on the Steve Eastman Memorial Field at Hog Coliseum.
The Mud Bowl has helped raise nearly a million dollars for groups including the North Conway Community Center, the Vaughan Learning Center; and the Carroll County Retired Senior Volunteer Program.
In the 2017 Mud Bowl, the Amherst-based Muddas were 19 time champions, but their quest for a 20th crown was thwarted, and pushed back a year, by the North Country Crocs of North Conway, who eked out a clutch, 14-12 overtime victory.
This year, however, there was much less drama as the Muddas, under the quarterbacking of Jay Holder, had their Bay State challengers on the ropes early and often, racking up a 22-6 lead at halftime.
While the Muddas defense held the Mud Sharks scoreless in the second half, Holder and his six offensive teammates put up another 16 points with Lee Barbiarsz on the receiving end of several throws.
A 2006 graduate of Milford High School, Barbiarsz played college football at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley and in 2012 was drafted by and had what he called “a very short run” with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars.
“I’m glad to be back,” said Barbiarsz, who explained that his schedule didn’t always allow him to compete in the two-day, double elimination Mud Bowl tournament. Mud football is seven-on-seven, touch football that is played in about 15 inches of brown, gooey mud.
Asked about playing on grass and turf fields in the NFL and playing on Steve Eastman Memorial Field in the mud, Barbiarsz said the primary difference between them is that “people can’t move as fast in the mud,” adding that it also helps to be tall, too because the mud makes vertical leaps difficult.
The Mud Bowl trophy is “back where it belongs,” he said, with Holder pointing out that Sunday’s win was truly a team effort.
A 1998 graduate of Timberlane High School, Holder is the head wrestling coach and an assistant professor within the Springfield College Department of Physical Education and Health Education.
“The guys were making space” to make offensive plays, Holder said, and overall, “it’s a lot of great athletes” that the Muddas are able to put on both sides of the ball.
Jayson Holder, who is Jay’s father and a fellow Mudda, said winning the club’s 20th Mud Bowl title was made possible and was special “because of the guys on the team.”
“Not only did we have a great game, we clicked across the board,” he said, and while winning is great, “all the teams are having fun.”