Blustery winds played a key part in the intramural soccer championship match Nov. 29 as 1st Battalion, 56th Air Defense Artillery dueled it out with the 75th Fires Brigade.

Late November winds at Fort Sill usually race down the Great Plains from the Canadian Arctic ushering in cold temperatures, but this gale rose from the south bringing warmer temperatures in the days to follow. But, on match night, the cool evening breeze failed to deter many players clad in shorts and light shirts as they ran the dusty soccer field at the corner of Sheridan and Mow-Way roads.

Juan Salas, 75th FiB player-coach, said his team prefers to play a counterattacking game with his players pushing the ball up as a team.

"We like to pass the ball and look for the best opportunity," he said. "When the other team has the ball, we let them push back until they make a mistake, and we can counter."

Salas credited Joseph Guillet, Salvador Saucedo and Jeromy Tarkon for their skills on offense. As for the team's goalie, John Barrett, the coach said Barrett's play was stellar as he allowed only two goals in the playoffs.

For the 1-56th ADA squad, coach Ryan Martin said the team prefers to keep its three defenders at home to prevent the other team from scoring.

"We figure defense will win more games than offense, from which we average about three goals a game," he said. "We rely on our two midfielders, Richard Jennings and Jared Hopton, and our forward, Tony Dedmond, to score goals; so far they've come through making our defensive scheme all the better."

The air defenders ace in the hole is about as unlikely a goal keeper to play in a championship game at any level.

"Michael Kilby is our goalie even though he hasn't played goalie before," said Martin. "But, he's doing well, in fact, in the semi-final game he saved two penalty kicks in the shoot-out.

"Without his strong play in goal there's no way we would have won that game," he said.

Kilby, here for the Basic Officer Leader Course, decided to play soccer, because he thought it would be something fun to do.

"This is the first time I've ever played, but I've enjoyed the challenge," he said.

In the semi-final match, the 1-56th fought to a draw after 40 minutes of regulation play forcing a five-ball shoot-out, where Kilby saved the day. Without experience to draw from, his technique was simple, yet effective.

"You guess which way they are going to kick it and go with that instinct," he said. "As it turned out, twice I guessed right."

In the final match, the 1-56th squad took possession of the ball to open the first 20-minute period. Aided by the strong tailwind, the air defenders offense pressured Diamond Brigade defenders with shots on goal.

However, like the rock they're named for, the 75th did not break for about the first 10 minutes. Instead, the two teams moved the ball up and down the field only to have the opposing goalies or defense deflect or block shots on goal.

Following a 75th corner kick, Martin won the ball leading a 1-56th push. He passed to Jennings who in turn sent a cross-field kick to Dedmond. He beat the 75th goalie to the ball and booted it into an empty net for the early 1-0 lead.

That lead held into halftime.

Switching sides at intermission, the Diamond Dudes mounted their own offensive attack in the second half and quickly tied the score as Jeromy Tarkon beat Kilby with a hard kick knotting the score.

However, that goal would prove to be the final tally the 75th FiB would produce.

"We had many scoring opportunities but just couldn't put the ball in the net," said Tarkon. "But, the 1-56th played a great game, too."

Defense ruled the match for most of the second stanza before Dedmond's iron foot decided the contest.

The 1-56th halted a 75th FiB offensive surge leading to a throw-in.

"Mister Jennings saw there was only one or two defenders on our side so he threw it up field, I beat my man to the ball and only had the goalie to beat," he said.

As he approached the goal from a tight angle, the 75th net minder stood tall in the goal intent to block his kick.

"I just struck the ball as hard as I could trying to carom it off the goal keeper's feet, and the ball skipped into the back corner of the goal," he said. "Sometimes fortune is better than skill."

Stealing back momentum with the 2-1 lead, the 1-56th kept the 75th off the scoreboard for the remainder of the game.

Dedmond called his teammates a tough group of guys that gelled into a great team. He also expressed his appreciation for his opponents.

"The 75th really took advantage of the wind in the second half and gave a great effort," he said. "They worked hard right to the end of the game."