Crouch, touch, set: Rugby Aviators ground Flyers
Fort Rucker Flyer Michael Smith, playing as wing, attempts to tackle a Pensacola Aviator player during a game March 16 at the youth football field.

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (March 21, 2013) -- The Fort Rucker Flyer Rugby team, which combined with the Panama City Beach Hurricanes last month, played the Pensacola Aviators March 16 in a match that was fit for the sky.

The Aviators brought the Flyers back down to earth in a 33-7 game, but Flyers who have been training for weeks said the match boosted morale and helped them see what they still have to work on.

"Rugby is amazing; it is a whole-hearted sport. We had some great plays, but we began to come back too late in the game. Even though we lost, we saw a lot of areas that we can improve on that should work to our advantage in next week's game," said Staff Sgt. Colin Schwalm, 1st Battalion, 14th Aviation Regiment, Headquarters, Headquarters Company.

The Aviators used to be an Air Force team, according to Schwalm, which helped Fort Rucker decide to play as the Hurricanes despite being on the Flyer pitch.

Though the players wore the Hurricanes' shamrock jerseys in honor of St. Patrick's Day, it didn't bring them any luck, for the first try and conversion was made by the Aviators within the first 15 minutes of the game, setting them up for a strong lead.

Possession quickly passed between players and the ball constantly moved up and down the field, but Pensacola held the upper hand most of the first half and made a second successful conversion kick and try 20 minutes later.

Fort Rucker's spirits began to dwindle, but sideline players tried to keep them motivated, and the team refused to be grounded so soon in the game. They pushed hard down the field and came within a few meters of making a try, but they were not able to land the ball and were eventually pushed back downfield.

As the last seconds of the first quarter slipped away, the Flyers attempted to make a try by gaining possession of the ball in a scrum. But, as the teams' forwards locked together, the clock ran out.

The game was played on a temporary field because the rugby field is being refurbished with new turf, and it provided some unique challenges during the game -- for both teams kept kicking the ball so far out of bounds and into the stands, that spectators had to keep collecting the ball.

Within five minutes after halftime, a successful ruck, pass and run by the Aviators helped them take charge of the second half. Making another try and conversion, the Aviators began to really pull away from the Flyers.

Knock-on after knock-on was dealt with both teams beginning to lose momentum, but constant military physical training helped the Flyers gain some ground as the Aviators weakened and their endurance began to wane. The Flyers made a try and a conversion kick halfway through the second half.

Fort Rucker was not able to maintain that strength and speed, though, and their endurance also began to diminish.

Pensacola, though weakened, was still able to get a successful try, even if the conversion was short. And after going back and forth on the field and both teams giving all they had, Pensacola was able to make a fifth try and conversion.

The Flyers weren't ready to give up, even with only 10 minutes left in the game, and made a good pass, but a Pensacola player was able to grab it and run the ball downfield. Not to be outdone, Fort Rucker pulled the same trick on the Aviators soon afterwards. The player, WO1 Jesse Haddix, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 145th Aviation Regiment, managed to make it to the 22-meter mark before being tackled by two Aviator athletes, preventing the try.

The Flyers were determined to close the gap between the two teams, but just did not have it in them to secure another try.

An Aviator player was able to break free of the pack and keep possession of the ball, running the continuous clock out. Snatching the wings of victory, Pensacola was able to fly ahead with the win with a finishing score of 33-7.

Players on both teams donned kilts in celebration of St. Patrick's Day and Nick Deitler, Flyer game captain, said that though the loss was unfortunate, there were no hard feelings.

"I think once we get all the growing pains worked out from the two teams combining we will be so strong. We just need a little more cohesiveness," he said.

The team is currently developing youth and lady teams, interested parties can attend a practice Tuesdays or Thursdays at 6 p.m. at the Rugby field.

Page last updated Thu March 21st, 2013 at 14:14