By Shandi Dix, Fort Riley Public AffairsOctober 22, 2010
FORT RILEY, Kan. - Fort Riley's Army flag football team protected its house with a 13-6 victory over McConnell Air Force Base in the second annual Army vs. Air Force Flag Football Game Oct. 16 at Sacco Softball Complex.
There was a little trash talking before the game about McConnell taking the trophy back to Wichita, Kan.
"That wasn't going to happen, not on my watch," said Lt. Myreon "Dion" Booker, Company E, 101st Forward Support Battalion, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. Booker also was the defensive team captain for this year's team.
"Our defense was outstanding today," Booker said. "They did everything that I asked them to do, they played hard. We threw a lot of blitzes in. They played well, they had a couple interceptions. We really stepped up today. I was really proud of them."
Three interceptions helped the Fort Riley team come away with a win for the second year.
"Every one of the interceptions was good - (it) was one of the big plays because we gave our offense good field position to work with and they took advantage of that," Booker said.
Spending five weeks practicing and putting in a lot of plays paid off for both the defense and offense, he said.
"We did an excellent job preparing," said Spc. Daniel Cooper, Company D, 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Inf. Div. "We spent a lot of time practicing our plays, walking through it, making sure we had things down to the nickel until there was no flaws. We kept executing, kept practicing and then we adapted as we saw their defense change. It was a little different than we're used to, but we made it happen."
From last year's game, the Army team was told the Air Force quarterback would most likely be a pocket passer, Booker said.
"What we did was made sure that he was a pocket passer, put a good pressure on him, so then he'd just throw the ball up and then we'd get interceptions, and from that pressure we got three interceptions," he said. "They came out here today with a little more speed than they had last year, a little more trick plays than they had, and they were a good challenge."
McConnell's team also brought many tall players.
"We're not used to playing against people that kind of height, so it was a little harder for our quarterback to get it over to the receiver's hands," Cooper said.
Cooper didn't let the height of the opposing team stop him from scoring the game-winning touchdown.
"I was open in the left corner of the end zone, and the quarterback from the other side came off me a little bit and then saw me and threw it up - it's quite a distance to throw - so I realized how short it was and that the defender was getting ready to jump up and grab it, so I ran up and jumped in front of him and caught it before he had the chance," he said.
Both Cooper and Booker have a football past. Cooper played fullback, defensive end and cornerback for his high school, while Booker is a former free safety for the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers. Being part of the Fort Riley Army Flag Football Team brought back memories for both, they said.
"It was a very good feeling, brought me be back to those high school days - the glory days - just feeling that rush go through your body when you make something good happen," Cooper said. "I played in high school, and I'm hoping to try to get into the semi-pro football teams that they have around these local neighborhoods."
"It brought back some memories for me just with the crowd and with the team - just the fact that we came together as one, and we played hard, and we were listening to each other, adjusting when we had to," Booker said. "(It) brought me back to my football days where we did that in the huddle, got together and played our hearts out."
The fans added a lot to this year's game which lacked in last year's match up, Booker said.
"Last year, one thing that was a big difference was the excitement coming into the game," he said. "Fort Riley did an excellent job of bringing in bands, cheerleaders, just getting the community, as well as the other Soldiers here together and putting on a great event. This was something that we need when we have people deployed and coming back from deployment. It's a way for those that come back to get a little break, come watch some football, and for those going to be deployed or are deployed, have them see us play hard for them."
The Junction City High School Band provided pre-game entertainment and also performed the national anthem. The Child, Youth and School Services Cheerleaders cheered the team on to its victory.
"Our gracious host here put on a great event for us, highlighting the enthusiasm of not only the players, but the fans," said Col. Pat Rose, commander of the 22nd Mission Support Group, McConnell Air Force Base.
In its second year, the match up has provided a connection between Fort Riley and Wichita.
"We're looking forward to this growing," said Col. Kevin Brown, Fort Riley garrison commander. "It really just started last year. This was the second annual game and already we've kind of turned up the volume on this thing, and I think we've had not just a good football game, but we've created some brotherhood amongst the Airmen."
Both commanders agreed the game was played well.
"I thought the quality of play was outstanding, but maybe that's just because we ended up on the high side of the score," Brown said. "I'm just kidding. Overall, these are some great athletes out here, and I was very surprised at the caliber of play that happened out there on the field."
"The score of the game didn't matter especially because they had more points than us, but it was great teamwork out there - great athletes out there representing their services," Rose said.
Friendly trash talking continued after the game with predications of next year's match up in Wichita.
"We're going to do the same thing we did this year, actually put a little more points on the board, that's the only difference," Booker said.
"We've got them on our home turf next year and so, we're going to try and accomplish two things - one, be as good host as they were, and then two, bring that trophy back and keep it at McConnell Air Force Base," Rose said.