Air Force wins rugby title
November 20, 2009
- Air Force blanks Army 34-0 to capture sixth straight Armed Forces Rugby championship
- In five games, Air Force outscores opposition 226-3
- "You've got to have the stars align in a perfect storm (to beat them)," Army coach says
FORT BENNING, Ga. - Make it six in a row for the Air Force.
Air Force punctuated another dominant run in the Armed Forces Rugby Championship by beating Army 34-0 in Friday's title match at Stewart-Watson Field. In five tournament games, Air Force outscored its opposition a whopping 226-3.
"It feels great," said Air Force second-row player Ty Terrazone, named the game's co-MVP by his teammates, along with fly half John Feely. "This team was special. We had a lot of young guys, but some veterans like me, as well ... It's good to come out and dominate like we do, and have fun doing it."
Air Force's sixth straight gold medal came in equally convincing fashion as it did a year ago, when the team outscored the other service branches by a 248-19 clip.
On Friday, Air Force dictated field position and controlled the ball while forcing the Soldiers into some turnovers.
"I'm happy with our performance today, but you can't make mistakes against the Air Force. You've got to play you're A-game," Army head coach Mike Stephenson said. "We misplayed a couple balls, and the Air Force has a very aggressive defense. They were able to capitalize on those mistakes. They're really good."
Air Force converted a few miscues into points by spinning the ball out wide and getting its attackers into open space.
"It's always a physical match against Army," head coach Dan Lockert said. "We were fortunate to take advantage of a couple mistakes ... The fact we could keep them under pressure was a big key for us."
After heavy rain from Tropical Storm Ida led to postponement of the Nov. 10 start, the clubs had to cram five games into three days. In Friday's consolation match, the Marine Corps beat Navy 34-10 to lock up third place. The Coast Guard finished fifth.
Only Navy managed to score against the Air Force in a 52-3 loss Nov. 11 on Day One of round-robin play. A day later, the Airmen shut out the Coast Guard 52-0 and Marine Corps 45-0 to reach the championship game.
Army, meanwhile, opened with a 3-0 victory over the Marines before falling 43-0 to Air Force later that day. The Soldiers posted a 3-2 mark in the tournament.
"This has been one of our better years," said Stephenson, who's led the squad for the past decade and hopes to return in 2010. "Each game we played, we grew a little bit."
Army won nine consecutive Armed Forces Rugby championships from 1993 to 2001. Stephenson played on seven of those title teams.
During their nine-year run, the Soldiers always benefited from a wealth of veteran players, he said.
Right now, Air Force is at a "different level," Stephenson said. "You've got to have the stars align in a perfect storm (to beat them) ... They bring the wood. All their guys have great hands and good tackling skills. They play pretty error-free ball, and they dominate when you make mistakes."
Lockert said depth, flexibility and versatility are "what gets us this far every year."
Terrazone, an F-15E weapons system officer about to deploy to Afghanistan, has been a member of the last five Air Force championship teams.
"On the field, we don't like the Army, Marines or Navy," he said. "Off the field, we're brothers in arms ... We're all part of the same team when it comes to that bigger part of life, fighting for the same cause."