The FQA had just begun; the landscape of quizzing in Florida was changing. The Master’s Academy had recently seen the end of an era. The Wests had graduated in 1995 and 1996; David Douglas quit coaching The Master’s Academy. Central Florida Christian Academy seemed poised to overtake The Master’s Academy. Would it happen? Well, in 1997, a surprise performance by a very close third team, Hobe Sound, made it seem possible that the next year would be a three team race. Israel Bandela started quizzing in 1997 when Hobe Sound was starting a new Bible Quiz team. Hobe Sound had shown through the Annual FACCS Brain Bowl Championship that they were a school with many capable, academically-strong students, but could those students compete at this new event to them–Bible Quiz?
While the FQA season remained close and three teams competed for every event in 1998, Hobe Sound barely pulled away and won FACCS. Hobe Sound began a four year run of FACCS championships and some decent performances at AACS. Despite the fact that there were many very good quizzers over that string of years–John Bandela, Jason Walker, Andrew Palacios, John Mark Palacios, and Patrick Triplett–Israel stood out. That group dethroned Central Florida Christian Academy and The Master’s Academy, after a string of 15 years where no other school had won FACCS. The Master’s Academy had come off back to back 5th place AACS finishes.
Coach Phil Delamarter started this team. While the small school began to become a national powerhouse, they received some pointers from Florida coaching legend Paul West. When the team got ready to try to win their first National Championship, Israel separated himself from the pack. Israel was the unquestioned leader of that corps. Israel was the straw that stirs the drink for that group. He had a way of keeping them encouraged. I have heard it described as Mr. Delamarter bringing in kids excited to quiz and Israel irritating them to make sure they kept working. Israel was not only the leader, he had started to separate himself as the best quizzer.
Israel accomplished two things during his quizzing career. First, he started the FQA right. For the first years of the FQA, Israel was the standard bearer. In fact, there is even an award named after Israel. Because of his great standard, the FQA has honored him. The second thing he accomplished was greatness at AACS. In his sophomore year, Hobe Sound was still learning during their first appearance at AACS, where they finished in 7th place. They were excited about the possibilities of the future, and that proved to be a worthy excitement as the next year, Hobe Sound returned to AACS and made it to the second day. A Thursday appearance for Florida, after a three year absense, was certainly an accomplishment. While they fell short that year, the next year, they had their classic three-quiz showdown with Illinois where they lost on the final question of the third quiz. A second place finish at AACS was the finale of Israel’s career. It was fitting that he quizzed out by question 11, but we just wish he could have won.
While there are no AACS awards named after him, he left a mark there also. Israel was the first that we can remember who got up first on at least 10 questions every quiz. He seemingly singlehandedly changed the landscape of quizzing from a contest of minimizing errors to a contest of getting more correct. Much like Babe Ruth changed the concept of baseball, Israel was someone who created a whole new concept of quizzing. In the five years since his graduation, several quizzers have emulated the Israel style. Israel overshadowed people. If you were in a quiz against Israel, you were almost certainly relegated to getting tossups, waiting until he quizzed out, or just not getting many answers. I remember a quiz in his junior year, where he was quizzing against the two people that many had said were potentially better than he. By question 10, Israel had quizzed out and the other teams were competing for the middle win. That was Israel’s way. In his unassuming way, he had that smile that made it seem so easy. He was a dominator whose legend is still talked about, even unto this year.
So, returning to the initial assessment about quizzing in Florida. Hobe Sound dominated for four years, CFCA fell off for a few years, OCP came and went, and TMA could not win at FACCS again until two years after Israel’s graduation and the coming of another great quizzer–Jesse Startup. In addition to Israel’s fantastic domination, he was someone who could change thoughts. A couple of years after he graduated, he was given the opportunity to quiz at Athens New Year’s Classic, and he talked a team of his buddies too old to quiz into learning chapters so they could quiz at that one event. He was one of those people that could convince anyone to join a team with a singular phone call. At that event, he met the new Director of the FQA and he began a two-year period where his questions were the only ones used in any FQA competition. They are still revered in my home state.
In the years since, Israel has changed his last name to that of his adopted father–Henriquez. While he is now in medical school, he continues to appear at a quiz or two a year and hopes to return more frequently. We certainly hope so, because any environment where Israel is around quizzing is one where the students have that excited leader they can emulate. He is so busy at Medical school, that he rarely has time to attend more than that event or two, but the way the FQA Director is always speaking about him, he is never too far from the minds of those that have followed him in the FQA.
Israel, take a break, flash that winsome smile, and show God’s Light; you’re on the list.