CESKY KRUMLOV, Czech Republic -- American football isn't only for Americans as demonstrated by the players that participated in this past weekend's celebration of the 70th anniversary of a football game in Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic.
Troopers from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment's (Dragoons) football team took on players from the Prague Black Panthers semi-professional American football team, on September 26, 2015, in front of hundreds of spectators who came out to watch and support their local sports heroes.
"I knew that this was a big deal for our regiment but I didn't expect it to be an even bigger deal to the people there," said Pfc. Zechariah Parks, a running back with the 2CR football team. "I think the entire team was blown away by that and I hadn't ever experienced anything like it."
The game was a large part of an even bigger celebration for the people of Cesky Krumlov, who were also commemorating the town's liberation 70 years ago during World War II.
"Coming into this game, I didn't know the significance or how important the war was," said Sgt. Henry Ofori, a running back for the Dragoons. "After the game and listening to a guy that had actually been there, I realized that this was more than just another regular football game for us and that it meant more."
The "guy" Ofori spoke of was Jans Pils, a local resident who was 10 years old when the first football game was played in September of 1945. Before the event, Pils spoke with the team about his experiences with the Soldiers that helped free his country during the war and what it was like to watch the original game.
Having the ability to interact with the spectators and speak with Pils before the game seemed to encourage the Dragoons to play harder for the crowd.
"My favorite part about it was the kids," said Parks. "Through the generations and the past 70 years, what we did for the people and the liberation just trickled down and left a great image of the American people. So the kids just loved us and that made me feel a whole lot better."
Ofori agreed and shared an experience of his own.
"I honestly felt like a VIP," said Ofori. "I remember being saluted by a lady and that made me feel like 'wow', along with taking pictures with the kids and stretching with them, I felt overwhelmed."
As the game began, both teams came onto the field for the ceremonial portion of the event, showing respect to one another and to each other's countries during the playing of the national anthems, by holding their hands over their hearts.
With 2CR winning the coin toss and electing to start the game with the ball, the team captains shook each other's hands and headed to their respective sidelines to begin the game.
But the game didn't go according to plan, at first, for the 2CR team.
"To be honest, when we first got onto the field, the first play of the game was a fumble." Parks said laughingly. "It didn't look too good at first but then the defense got a stop, we got it back and we just took off."
The game lived up to the hype as players battled up and down the field trying to place themselves into scoring position. However, as it went on, the Dragoons gained the upper hand, going into halftime with a 14-0 lead and never let go, winning the game with a score of 35-0.
"It was a good exhibition game," said Ofori. "It was a tough one but we all kept our momentum and brought our 'A' game."
As the events came to a close, the Dragoon players reflected on their history making experience along with the stories they will have that they can pass along to their kids in years to come.
"Personally, it's great that the people of the Czech Republic still thank us to this day and took the time to learn our sport," said Parks. "It turns out that they are great at it and the relationships are just as strong as they were back then."
Ofori shared parks sentiment while also sharing, that for him, this possible once in a lifetime experience hit home.
"I can say that I was part of an historical moment," said Ofori "And I can cherish that."