By By Jeremy Wise, Army Flier StaffJanuary 15, 2010
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- With victory hinging near defeat, Thundercats' tough defense stiffened and forced a last-second two-point conversion attempt to fail, sealing a 28-27 intramural football championship win over the Guardian Eagles.
The play culminated an exciting fourth quarter of football, where fans watched the D Company, 1st Battalion, 145th Aviation Regiment Thundercats mount a furious rally and survive a late scare from the 1-58th Airfield Operations Battalion squad.
After no scoring occurred in the third quarter, the Thundercats trailed 21-14, but a long Joe Hall punt return and a penalty placed the ball at the Eagles' 10-yard line.
Two plays later, quarterback Patrick McDonald completed a 9-yard touchdown pass to Scott Rosenshein.
The extra point failed, and the Guardian Eagles maintained a 21-20 lead.
A poor decision proved disastrous to the Eagles' winning chances on their next drive. Quarterback and head coach Michael Weber scrambled on a third-down play before throwing an interception to Hall. Hall returned the pick about 25 yards for a touchdown.
"The line had a good rush. The rush is what threw him off. We had been getting to him, and he'd been dumping it off to his linemen," Hall said, noting he saw Weber attempt the same thing on the interception.
Weber said despite having a tiny lead, his team wanted to continue playing at a high level of intensity, which is why he forced the errant pass.
After the Thundercats converted the two-point conversion, they led 28-21.
The Eagles, though, mounted a drive that scared eight lives out of the 'Cats. Weber had four critical runs, accounting for 59 yards. One run converted a fourth down with 20 seconds left in the contest.
On the next play, Weber struck Nick Stalford with a 17-yard pass to the 'Cats 3. Two plays later, Weber found Phillip Fortenberry in the end zone with one second left.
With a chance to tie the game with an extra point, the Eagles elected to go for two, but the pass fell incomplete.
"It wasn't a bad call. We just didn't execute," Weber said.
The Thundercats won the post championship despite going 5-5 in the regular season and finishing seventh out of 11 teams. Head coach David Galbreath said it took a few weeks for the team to jell together.
"We kind of jumped into this. It took a couple of weeks for everyone to get together and feel comfortable," he said.
The Thundercats' offensive attack moved efficiently due to short passes, something that fit the personnel better than other offenses, Galbreath said.
"We wanted to keep a fast-paced offense. It keeps other teams off balance," he said, noting he felt his team was also better conditioned than most squads.
Hall said winning the title felt great, but he really enjoyed having fun playing with friends and taking a break from studying for flight school.
Guardian Eagles' Joseph Cantrell said the last-play loss was tough to swallow, but complimented his team for battling through part of the loser's bracket to make the title game.
"The best teams are tested. We could've thrown in the towel," he said, noting the team bonded together instead after an earlier playoff loss to the Thundercats.