On Sept. 15, 2023, the high school played Sacramento Country Day’s annual capture the flag game, “Ancil Hoffman.” This year marked the 50th anniversary of the event. The Black Team — seniors and freshmen — won against the Red Team, made up of sophomores and juniors, with a score of 216-98.
“Ancil Hoffman is one of the greatest things in high school. Anyone who says otherwise is crazy,” said sophomore Jackson Whited.
Whited was disappointed in the Red Team’s loss, but was not surprised. His favorite memory was when the Red Team’s jail was so full it reached the Oasis. Which is the halfway point, to rest when running across the opponent’s field.
“It was nice to go out on a win,” said senior Imani Cochran—this being her last Ancil Hoffman game.
According to Cochran, the Black Team’s strategy was to put their faster players in the back, so at the last second they could pull the flag of members on the Red Team.
When running across the opponent Red Team’s side, the Black Team would run as a group, decreasing the chance of getting their flag pulled. The Black Team just went for it, Cochran said.
To her, her favorite moment was pulling the Red Team’s flag and walking them to the jail. “It was really funny,” Cochran said. The history of Ancil Hoffman all leads back to a teacher who wanted to share the joy of summer camp.
English teacher David Hechler started Ancil Hoffman in 1973. After playing the game at a summer camp when he was younger, Hechler wanted to introduce it at Country Day.
Former Head of High School, Sue Nellis researched the history of the Ancil Hoffman Picnic for an article she was creating in the book “50 This We Remember 1964-2014,” which was published in-house by Country Day in 2015.
“He liked the teachers becoming referees, the barbecue, traveling on the bus and the community of it all,” Nellis said.
“One of the great things about the game was getting to know all the kids,” Hechler said in the article that Nellis wrote called “1973 The Ancil Hoffman Picnic.”
Initially, the game was called Strategy because it was similar to Capture the Flag; however, it was not the same game.
“The idea of the game is the same, but the rules have changed a little over time as people decided to do something more fun or if the rules caused injuries” Nellis said.
Aside from the years of COVID-19, the game has been played every year since 1973. However the game was not always played at Ancil Hoffman Park.
“One year it was at Oak Meadow Park on American River Drive, where the students walked because there was not enough money for buses,” Nellis said.
In addition to location, the team colors varied from the current red and black attire that students from the respective grades wear. When the game started, the school colors were brown and gold, to match Country Day’s mascot, Baxter the Owl. The colors changed to red and black in 1987.
Patricia Jacobsen, High School Mathematics Chair and Dean of High School has been a part of Ancil Hoffman for nineteen years. She recently changed some of the rules to prevent rule-breaking and injuries.
The new rules include: no fake flags and no trading shirts. Older rules, still in effect include: no tackling, good sportsmanship, no going out of bounds, no moving your flag once hidden, no hiding your personal flag and turning it in at the end of the game for faculty to count.
The most important rule of the game is to have fun.
So, what does a student do if they are not athletic and have no interest in Ancil Hoffman? Well, if they create a team cheer, help make the team flag, find trinkets and treasures around the field and answer trivia questions, all these things will add up to get points for the team.
“We started all of these little things over the years to help students participate in a meaningful way,” Jacobsen said.
“Ancil Hoffman is a great excuse to let out a lot of energy and go crazy without breaking any rules,” Whited said.