It’s not unusual for couples to do things together, go to the movies, shop together, but for this couple: Brandon and his wife, Brittany Williams work together selling insurance. Last year during Hike It & Spike It, Brittany was three months pregnant when they played in the tournament. Brittany Williams had a baby boy and named him Tobias Vaughn Williams. The Williams will experience their first HISI together as a family.
“We knew she was pregnant last year,” Brandon Williams said. “We didn’t tell anyone on the team, she was still working out and we knew she could play. We decided to use her sparingly. She’s a diehard HISI player.”
Brandon and Brittany Williams are graduates of Roswell High School. Brandon played for the state championship team coached by Jack Cisco. He played with DonTrell Moore, Jose Chavez, Ryan Roberts and other teammates. Brandon Williams stated that it felt good for his teammates to walk through the field house and talk with his old teammates and watch Roswell win the championship game.
The team ended up finishing in fourth place in the co-ed division last year. The team has one of its key members back in Billy Quiroz. He was in a car accident in May last year and couldn’t play. One of the biggest surprises was when the team honored one of its players, Dara Sanders-Aceves, whose late husband Chris Sanders was killed in the Iraqi war in 2008.
Brandon Williams was in a car accident and had to take HISI off. He later got the itch and started looking to play again. He wanted to play along with his wife, Brittany. Both of them studied co-ed and have been playing ever since. The team has won the co-ed division once in 2015 in their 10 years of competing in HISI.
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Gridtastic 8 team captain Brandon Williams started handing out jerseys after practice for the games on Saturday. Sanders-Aceves received her jersey and when she turned it around, it said “In memory of Sgt. Chris Sanders.”
If that wasn’t enough, on the day of the first game when Gridtastic 8 had the ball to begin the game, with both teams lined up on the field ready to play, Gridtastic 8 hiked the ball and players on both teams paused and the first snap was in honor of her late husband, Chris Sanders.
“It teared me up,” Sanders-Aceves said. “It reminded me about the Memorial (Day) weekend and that it’s more than just about HISI. It’s more than hot dogs and everything. What my team did for me last year meant a lot to me.”
Her late husband, Chris Sanders was recently honored by New Mexico Military Institute on April 30. NMMI named the overpass “Sgt. Chris Sander’s Overpass.” What was so nice was that her high school son, Chris Sanders, who attends NMMI was also there to honor his father.
“It turned out beautiful,” Sanders-Aceves said. “My son was nervous he was out there with his classmates; the mayor was out there.”
She has been playing HISI for 10 years. Sanders-Aceves loves competition and meeting other players from different states. What she likes the most is playing with her friends and teammates who have become like a second family to her.
“I enjoy watching everyone coming out here,” Sanders-Aceves said. “I, too, enjoy being out here and eating hot dogs. This event is so huge and it’s nice to be a part of it.”
As the team did the hike and both teams paused, Chris’ parents came out to be a part of HISI. When the ball was snapped and both teams paused, Brandon Williams took out another jersey with Chris’ favorite number on the back 42 with Sgt. C. Sanders on the back and gave it to Chris Williams’ parents, Marie and Kelly Sanders. Players on both sides teared up before the game began.
“I have some friends,” Sanders-Aceves said, “who have lost their husbands. Some of their towns do not remember their late husbands. I’ve gotten remarried and my husband is not threatened at all about anything. It means a lot and everyone around remembers Chris Sanders.”
This year, the team will be wearing football jerseys with the Punisher logo with a purple strip. This year, the players picked a different person to honor on their shoulders as part of Memorial Day weekend. It will be someone that was in the military, whether they are living, deceased and the branch of service they were in.
“It’s all about memories for us,” Brandon Williams said. “This is more for living up the glory days. Just having fun, hanging out with good friends. We want to compete and win.”
Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or firstname.lastname@example.org.