Sentinels finally get that coveted championship
Stars and Stripes October 28, 2023
SPANGDAHLEM, Germany – The Spangdahlem bench showed exactly how much winning the DODEA-Europe Division III football championship meant to the team.
The Sentinels clinched their first crown since 2019 with a 44-6 victory over AFNORTH at Spangdahlem High School. The victory almost exactly one year to the day they experienced tears from a title-game loss.
On Saturday, those drops were of joy, not sadness.
“I saw them crying on the sidelines, and I’m like, ‘Bro, this is genuinely amazing,’” running back Messiah Smith said. “I love every bit of it because I knew everybody wanted this.”
The win was emotional for a group of eight seniors – quarterback Casey Supinger, wide receivers/defensive backs Makario Drummond, Robert Leggett, and Eli Hulet, running backs Aidan Penrod and Javian Rivera, running back/defensive back Ryan Davis and center/nose guard Michael Landers – who hadn’t gotten over the hump.
After COVID-19 washed their freshman campaigns, the seniors had fallen short at the final hurdle with losses to Baumholder in 2021 and Brussels in 2022.
“It was really good for the boys, especially the seniors who had to go through that loss,” said Spangdahlem coach Terrance Hoffman, who, like the eight seniors, rode off into the sunset by winning his final game in charge of the Sentinels (8-0). “This right here is great for them. They deserve this.”
Spangdahlem took care of business in a manner most unlike its usual style of play.
Normally, the Sentinels spread out defenses and use the arm of Supinger and his connection with receivers Leggett and Drummond to do damage. The signal caller still did have some success via the aerial attack Saturday, completing nine of 25 for 168 yards and three touchdowns.
The first score went for 36 yards to Drummond in the second quarter as the senior receiver caught the ball over the middle of the field and dragged a pile across the goal line. The other two came in the fourth quarter – a 25-yarder to Alex Theiss and a 5-yarder to Connor Penrod for the last score of the game.
However, the most damage against AFNORTH (6-2) came on the ground. The Sentinels accrued 302 yards on 32 attempts for an average of 9.43 yards per touch and three touchdowns. Spangdahlem also set up in jumbo packages often, which the coach chalked up to the weather conditions.
“We practiced all week in the weather just like it was tonight, and we just decided it was better to keep the ball on the ground with the field being wet and the rain coming down,” Hoffman said. “We kind of switched it up a little bit this week.”
Smith led the ground assault. He blitzed the Lions for 129 yards and three scores on 13 carries.
His first two touchdown runs gave Spangdahlem a 16-point advantage in the first quarter, and the home team never looked back. On the offense’s second possession, Smith capped off a short field by taking a sweep 11 yards to paydirt. Then, four plays later after the Sentinels’ Edward Peterson recovered a fumble, Smith took a pitch, cut it inside and broke a tackle for a 30-yard scamper.
The running back, who hadn’t played football before this season, punched in a 3-yard score late in the third quarter to give Spangdahlem a 24-point lead.
“If I’m being honest, I just wanted to go the distance,” Smith said. “I didn’t care about whether or not I got a touchdown; I just cared that I did what I needed to do for my team.”
The Lions, meanwhile, had more success offensively than they did in their first matchup with Spangdahlem.
Coach James Argyle said AFNORTH may have had negative yards in that first meeting, but on Saturday, the Lions totaled 175 yards on the ground. They also got on the board thanks to a fourth-and-1 play in the second quarter where Connor Luminarias (14 carries, 68 yards) broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage and then was off to the races for a 31-yard touchdown.
That score made it 22-6 heading into halftime.
In the second half, however, things fell apart for AFNORTH. The away side committed six of its eight turnovers in the half, including five fumbles. Those fumbles came off numerous sources, whether they were bad exchanges on handoffs or the ball being knocked loose after a hit.
Some killed off what looked to be possible scoring drives. Early in the fourth quarter, the Lions were threatening in the red zone when quarterback Anthony Romar threw an out route. The ball was caught, then bobbled it into the arms of Supinger who scooped it out of the air before going out of bounds.
“It’s great to live in the universe of no turnovers,” Argyle said. “I feel like we had pretty good success running up the middle. We were getting pretty consistent gains, but then they were baiting us into that because they’ll bend, bend, bend and ultimately, we fumbled the ball.”