By David Poe (IMCOM)December 9, 2011
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- Sports gurus say offense wins games, but defense wins championships.
The 2011 Puget Sound Classic, an annual flag-football showdown between Soldiers and Sailors in the region, was somewhere between a game and a championship.
This was the year Navy learned that defense wins these games too.
Behind ball-hawking Army defensive backs who made two of their three interceptions in their own end zone, almost two dozen Joint Base Lewis-McChord Soldiers and an Airman marched into Navy country at Silverdale Stadium on the West Sound and marched out with a coveted trophy -- and 364 days of bragging rights as the Northwest's military kings of the football field.
The team, sponsored by Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, won with defense over Navy Region Northwest 21-6, Saturday.
First quarter action saw both offenses take some tentative shots downfield as they seemed to wait for the other to blink.
Navy pushed their way downfield on their first possession, until quarterback James Pullom, who was otherwise 4 for 5 on his opening drive, threw into a packed end zone and into the awaiting hands of Army's Sedric Ross.
Army quarterback David Sadlemyer, who helped lead his unit team to glory at JBLM two nights prior in the Army championship, started slowly, going 1 for 5 with an interception in the first quarter, but progressively got more on target.
The military policeman, despite being sacked twice on the afternoon, stood repeatedly in a collapsing pocket until the last second.
He scrambled alertly and punched one in on the ground in the closing minutes of the first half, putting his team up 7-0.
Heading into the locker room at the half, Reginald Christor, co-coach of the Army squad, said he was satisfied with the level of play in the first, but knew Army's potential was even higher.
"We did some of the things we wanted to do," he said.
"We're going to go over our blocks and assignments; we'll clean those up in the second half. I'm happy, but the football could have been better."
A businesslike pre-game locker room was much of the same at halftime, and taking the field in the second half, a calm Sadlemyer said a smart passing game was necessary to see the game through.
"Flag football is a different dynamic," he said. "You can't always just go for the end zone every time, you have to 'nickel and dime' them. Seven to nothing isn't anything; there's a lot of football left."
Although they'd moved the ball well all game, Navy made a quarterback change in the third quarter, down 7-0, to USS Nimitz's Bruce Matthews.
Matthews was either feast or famine in the third quarter.
With plays ranging from a 32-yard scramble to throwing a tip-drill interception, while at the other end Sadlemyer flipped screen passes to Theodore Holman, who led the team with five catches.
A low-risk offensive scheme quietly put Army head late in the game 14-0.
Army's cruise thanks to a "bend-not-break" defense hit a snag late in the fourth quarter when the reinserted quarterback Pullom drove his team down field and scored on five plays, ending with a TD reception by Derrick Lewis.
A failed extra point brought Navy to within eight at 14-6 with less than two minutes remaining.
A quick three-and-out put the ball back in Navy's hands with less than a minute left, but Pullom fell short when Army's William Alley stepped into a route for his second interception of the day and never looked back.
Alley's pick-six covered 62 yards and safely put the game out of reach, 21-6.
After an on-field celebration returned the trophy to the South Puget Sound following its hiatus, Alley, a former football player at Savannah (Ga.) State University, said Army's opportunistic defense forced timely turnovers -- examples of the team never giving up.
"They were moving the ball pretty fast," Alley said, "so we had to keep at them."
Between youth football, college, and now playing semi-pro with the Tacoma Cobras, Alley said he'd yet to have a bigger play in his life than his interception returned for a touchdown which sealed Navy's fate in 2011.
Colonel Thomas Brittain, JBLM's garrison commander, along with Command Sgt. Maj. Matthew Barnes, Brittain's senior enlisted adviser, represented Army leadership at the annual event.
Brittain, an unapologetic infantryman, said though he's proud of his country's joint military, he was happy to indulge in a little "roasted goat" in 2011.
"This just highlights the spirit of that when we walk off of the field, we're part of a joint service," he said.
"We lost a close one last year, so coming back strong and winning it was good for the team. I couldn't be more proud of these guys."
David Poe: firstname.lastname@example.org