By Dustin Perry, U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public AffairsDecember 11, 2018
CAMP ZAMA, Japan (Dec. 11, 2018) -- Soldiers here mirrored the Army's gridiron win against their longstanding Navy rivals at the collegiate level with a 27-19 flag football victory against a team of sailors Dec. 8 at Camp Zama's Trojan Field.
Team Zama deployed a consistently aggressive offense, racking up impressive passing and running yards and scoring a pair of touchdowns in each half. Their defense was equally on-point, earning two interceptions in the first half, and even a safety--a rarity in flag football--to start off the second.
Team Navy, comprised of sailors from Naval Air Facility Atsugi and U.S. Fleet Activities Yokosuka, had first possession but struggled initially to gain significant yardage. Then Army cornerback Jassanti Kimbrough snatched an interception from Navy quarterback Stephen Marin to turn the ball over.
Army defensive captain Christopher Biscardi said his goal was to apply pressure and get the Navy quarterback "off his game," a goal he says they accomplished.
"We focus hard on defense; we always say defense wins games," said Biscardi. "If you can stop the other team's offense and have our offense on the field for most of the game, it's a chance to win."
Army scored on their first possession when quarterback Isaac Cummings III, after staging an impressive drive for yardage, faked a pass and ran the ball into the end zone. With a successful extra point attempt, Army led 7-0.
Navy turned the ball over once again on their next possession, and Army repeated the same formula, this time with center Vernon Jones grabbing a low pass from Cummings in the end zone.
Eager to not enter halftime with a goose egg on the scoreboard, Navy finally stepped up their offense with a persistent downfield drive and Marin running the ball in for his team's first score of the game.
Army slot receiver Jordan Lewis began the second half with a TD reception that put his team up by 12. But arguably the most impressive play of the game came from the Army defense on Navy's next possession. Backed up near his own 5-yard line, Marin scrambled to find a receiver and was trying to evade Army defensive lineman Greggory Hanneman. But Hanneman leapt sideways and pulled the flag from Marin's waist, mid-dive, in the Navy's end zone, netting Army two points for the safety and putting them up 21-7.
Desperate to overcome this deficit, Navy bounced back on their next possession with a touchdown reception by Cam Thomas. Army made another blazing drive and was within scoring distance, but were also on fourth down. Cummings once again displayed some quick footwork and ran in Army's final score of the game.
In a last ditch to close the gap, Navy charged down the field and managed to score one last touchdown, courtesy of a highlight-reel-worthy end zone catch by Jordan Hardnett. But with Army in possession and the game down to its final seconds, they needed only to run out the clock to claim the win.
Effective communication between the players was one of the keys to Army's victory, Cummings said. The team had also practiced in the weeks leading up to the game, building a high level of camaraderie, he added.
"If you communicate and you can execute, that's the name of the game," said Cummings. "We were just spacing out the defense and just taking what they gave us and playing to our strengths and not letting them dictate what we did on offense or defense."
While Marin noted that the annual game is a friendly competition, he admitted his opponents had an edge in terms of both their organization and their deployment of effective plays.
"They came out here and absolutely killed it," said Marin. "They're a fundamentals team. They work hard. They earned it."
This year's victory marked the second in a row for Army, in a matchup that typically ping-pongs between the two services. Biscardi said winning back-to-back was an amazing feeling and is hoping to participate in the game one last time before he leaves Japan. He echoed Marin's view on the friendly nature of the game, noting, "It's all love out here in the end."
"We're all military, so we all represent the same thing," said Biscardi.