By Vince Little, The BayonetDecember 3, 2010
FORT BENNING, Ga. - Make it four in a row for the officers at the 11th Engineer Battalion's Turkey Bowl.
The brass needed overtime but escaped with a 10-8 victory over the senior NCOs in their annual ultimate football game, played Nov. 24 in a light rain at Stewart-Watson Field. Charles Jones scored seven times for the officers, who also were led by Ryan Tutton, Seth Sanders and Nathan Wilkes.
"We win every year," said Lt. Col. Dwayne Smith, the battalion commander, "but it's always a good, tight game. ... What helps us is we do PT together every week and we're able to do (ultimate football) every other Thursday."
Ultimate football isn't like the sport's traditional version. Teams get one point per touchdown, and the game features two 20-minute halves and a running clock. Players are only allowed three steps after catching a pass, and possession goes to whoever can grab a loose ball.
The slick football led to some dropped passes in the end zone by both sides. Tied 8-8 at the end of regulation, the teams went to the first overtime in the Turkey Bowl's four-year history. The officers scored twice in that five-minute session to seal the win.
"It's a very tough loss. I really thought we had it won," said battalion Command Sgt. Maj. John Etter. "We had set aside a couple practices this time and thought we could pull something out. ... I don't think it was conditioning or talent. They were just able to make the plays and catch the ball when they had to."
Tony Madrid, Gregory Tate, Bernard Jones, Tacorrie Johnson and Roger Beasley were among the NCOs who delivered touchdowns in a losing cause.
Smith said playing conditions dictated the officers' game plan. Instead of trying to stretch the field with long passes, they moved the ball methodically.
"Going in, we said we were going to play short," he said. "Our teamwork (made the difference). The officers play together all the time. Our NCOs can't do that as much because of their duties and responsibilities with our Soldiers."
Earlier this fall, the battalion's senior enlisted members began an NCO PT program, Etter said.
"It lets us break away on our own twice a month," he said. "We can practice sports on our time as senior NCOs, which allows the junior NCOs to remain with the Soldiers throughout that day. We're just building cohesion - we don't have the cohesion (the officers) do."
For the first time since the Turkey Bowl's inception, the entire battalion was home at Fort Benning and didn't have any units deployed.
After the game, battalion commanders and first sergeants put on their dress blues and served a Thanksgiving lunch to unit Soldiers at the Warrior Inn Dining Facility.
"It's great getting together like this every year," Smith said. "At the end of the day, we're all 'Jungle Cats.'"
Etter agreed, saying the Turkey Bowl builds camaraderie and unit solidarity.
"It's a great time. People have fun with it," he said. "The enlisted just need to win it one time."