By Matt Decker (Leonard Wood)December 3, 2015
It was a long road to victory for the 5th Engineer Battalion, one that quarterback/coach Horace Gibson had been guiding his team along since the beginning of the season. On Nov. 24 on Fort Leonard Wood's Field 2, the 5th finally reached its destination, earning the 2015 Commander's Cup Flag Football Tournament plaque with a 21-12 win over the Medical Department Activity in the championship game.
"We knew it was going to be a tough one, because they (MEDDAC) only lost one game all season, just like we did," said Gibson, whose teammates included the Conference B runners-up 50th Engineer Company, the 515th Engineer Company and the 55th Mobile Augmentation Company.
Gibson had won three flag football championships during his career before taking the reins of the 5th Engr. Bn. team, and predicted they would win the 2015 post championship at the beginning of the season.
"They had a rough season last year; I think they only won one or two games. I had won three post championships before, and I came up with a system," Gibson said. "I told them if we stick with the system, we'll win -- as long as we do what we do, play how we play, trust the system and trust each other. Tonight, we had good teamwork and trusted each other. I just told them, 'Trust that the person beside you is going to do his job,' and that's all it took."
The 5th Engineers scored on their first possession of the game, starting their drive from midfield after a penalty against MEDDAC on the opening kickoff. A 25-yard run by Byron Causey and passes by Gibson to a trio of receivers put the ball at the 5-yard line. But the drive stalled until, on a fourth-down play, Gibson threw a 7-yard pass to Christopher Davis, who pulled it down in the far corner of the end zone. Michael Laughlin kicked for the extra-point, and the 5th Engineers held a 7-0 lead.
MEDDAC started the next series on their own 10-yard line, but advanced to midfield primarily on their running power, led by quarterback Donald Walls. However, Walls' attempt to switch to an air attack resulted in four incomplete passes, and the ball was turned over on downs.
Taking over at their own 37-yard line, the 5th Engineers advanced the ball 13 yards, most of that on a run by Seth Brown, but on a second-and-10 play, Gibson threw an interception to Walls, now playing defensive back for MEDDAC, in the end zone.
Taking over at their own 20-yard line, Walls ran 15 yards, then completed a 10-yard pass to Jude Martin, who carried the ball another 10 yards to give MEDDAC a first down in 5th Engineer territory. A short pass to Armand Patterson gave MEDDAC a first-and-goal at the 18-yard-line. From there, Walls threw a touchdown pass to Martin, who made a diving catch in the end zone. However, the two-point conversion attempt failed with a pass intended for Martin bouncing off the goal post, and the 5th Engineers held onto a 7-6 lead at halftime.
MEDDAC had its best series of the game as the second half got underway, starting with a 35-yard run on the opening kick-off return by Bruce Mayo. Starting at the 5th Engineers' 30-yard line, Walls completed a 13-yard pass to Martin. After a fumble and a sack on the next two plays, Walls took matters into his own hands and competed a 17-yard touchdown run. The two-point conversion attempt was again thwarted, but MEDDAC held a 12-7 lead.
A 20-yard run by Brown on the following kick-off let the 5th Engineers start their next series two yards short of the midfield line. Gibson rushed twice for a total of 20 yards and passed for 10 to earn three first downs over the next five plays. Then, on a third-and-goal play from the 10-yard line, Gibson threw a touchdown pass to Rodriguez to regain the lead. Laughlin's kick added the extra point to give the 5th Engineers a 14-12 advantage.
Mayo again gave MEDDAC good field position on the next series, returning the ball to their own 30-yard line, then caught a pass at midfield and turned it into a 20-yard gain on the next play. Walls carried the ball past the 20-yard line for a first down, but from there the drive stalled. The 5th Engineer defense broke up a passing attempt on a fourth-and-goal play from the 10-yard line to take over on downs.
The 5th Engineers' defensive performance, led by Chris Cheek, was key to the win, according to Gibson.
"I think the highlight, for me, was we just stayed focused on defense," Gibson said. "We made the big stops when we had to. They moved down the field all the way, and we made our stand at the goal line -- that was a big play."
A 60-yard run on the next play by Awtwan Davis put the 5th Engineers back at the MEDDAC doorstep. The MEDDAC secondary broke up the 5th's next two passing attempts, but on a third-down at the 26 yard-line, Gibson threw a pass to Rodriguez, who was stopped at the 5-yard line. Three plays later, Gibson completed a pass to Brown in the end zone, and with Laughlin's extra point, the 5th Engineers led 21-12 with less than a minute remaining on the clock.
With the following kick-off going out of bounds, MEDDAC started at their own 20-yard line. But the first play of the next series proved fatal for MEDDAC's chances, with Cheek intercepting a pass from Walls.
Taking over at their own 35-yard line and with MEDDAC out of time outs, the 5th Engineers simply ran out the clock.
Earlier Nov. 24, the 5th Engineers defeated the 84th Chemical Battalion, 28-12, in their semi-final game, while the MEDDAC team beat the 14th Military Police Brigade, 26-7, in their semi-final.
The 14th MP Bde. won the tournament's third-place game, beating the 84th Chem. Bn. 7-6.
The flag-football tournament was the first of 17 events in the 2016 Commander's Cup race. With their first-place victory, the 5th Engineers take an early lead in the standings with 100 points, followed by MEDDAC with 96, the 14th MP Bde. with 92, the 84th Chem. Bn. with 88; Combat Training Company, the 169th Engineer Battalion, 554th Engineer Battalion and 35th Engineer Battalion with 78 points each, and the U.S. Marine Corps Detachment, 763rd Ordnance Company, U.S. Navy Detachment, 92nd Military Police Battalion and Air Force Detachment 1, 364th Training Squadron, with 60 points each.
The next event in the series is the Commander's Cup Swim Meet, scheduled Feb. 20 at Davidson Fitness Center.