Sailors take three of four in Pacific Army-Navy football matchups
(See photos at end of story)
For the first time since 2003, Navy won the day on the Pacific interservice flag gridiron, seizing three victories in four games Saturday against their Army opponents.
Navy made it three wins in as many tries against soldiers and, for the first time, Army National Guardsmen on Guam, 38-6 at Naval Station’s Blue Jacket Field.
At Yongsan Garrison, South Korea, Navy won 16-14 for only its third win in 13 meetings in the Peninsula Trophy series. The same held true at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, where Navy took a 4-3 lead in its series with Camp Zama soldiers, holding off a late rally for a 14-13 win.
At Okinawa’s Torii Station, Army averted a Pacificwide sweep by rallying from a 28-20 second-quarter deficit to edge the sailors 40-35 in a shootout. It was Army’s fifth straight win in that series and 15th in 19 games overall.
Pomp and pageantry also ruled the day, with military bands, commanding officers and chief enlisted men and color guards adorning the proceedings. Cheerleaders performed at most venues, and prize giveaways and plenty of food and drink helped liven up the games.
Though competitive rivals on the field, "when the last gun sounds, we’re still soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, we’re all comrades in arms," said Torii Station’s 10th Support Group commanding officer Col. James E. Woodard.
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE — In the end, it took an offside call on Army for Navy to avoid becoming the first home team to lose in the seven-year series. Robert Cole’s hard count on fourth down caused the offside call, giving Navy a first down and allowing it to run out the clock.
"It was a 50-50 chance, and it worked out in our favor," Cole said. "We knew they were going to come hard because they were all up on the line of scrimmage, and we knew what they were going to do."
About 40 spectators braved blustery conditions that made 50-degree temperatures seem much colder to watch Cole pass 30 yards to Lamar Hardy. Carl Harris also scored as Navy went up 14-0 at halftime.
Camp Zama soldiers answered on Keith Pritchard’s 40-yard interception-return touchdown and Joseph Enochs’ touchdown catch, but missed the point-after on the second score.
TORII STATION — Tip-drill efficiency saved Army on both sides of the ball. Kishan Smith’s fifth touchdown pass of the day was deflected by Navy’s defense and caught by Marcus Pricher with 2:47 left, and Army defender Keenan Levant snagged an interception off a tipped Navy pass in the end zone on the game’s last play.
"We work on the tip drill in practice, and it paid off for us," Smith said. "It was a great game, on both sides."
Army’s rally spoiled a sensational performance by Navy return specialist William Mills, who ran back two kickoffs for touchdowns and also scored on an option pitch.
Some 1,000 spectators witnessed the contest, also played in gusty conditions, temperatures in the high 50s and occasional rain showers.
NAVAL STATION — Cold weather was hardly a bother at Blue Jacket Field, where sunny skies and balmy temperatures in the high 70s prevailed for a crowd of around 100.
"Fabulous weather for football," Naval Forces Marianas spokesman Lt. Donnell Evans said.
But even the presence of National Guardsmen, permitted to play this year to augment the small numbers at the Army’s Boller Veterinary Clinic, could slow Navy’s continued dominance in this rivalry.
YONGSAN GARRISON — The sun shone brightly but temperatures hovered in the teens as a sparse crowd of mostly Navy fans sat in hope of watching their team end a four-game losing streak.
"It feels real good," said Steve Keane, who quarterbacked the Navy team the last three years. He credited teamwork for the victory. "There were no egos. Everybody just wanted to win."
Navy rallied from a 6-0 deficit to go up 8-6 as the first half ended and then scored again with just over a minute left. Army sliced the deficit by scoring on the game’s final play and converting the two-point try, but it left the soldiers two points shy in the end.
Stars and Stripes reporters Dave Ornauer, Jimmy Norris and Tim Wightman compiled this report.