554th Engineers win second consecutive flag football title Print E-mail
Wednesday, 06 December 2017
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554th Engr. Bn. quarterback Justin Cramer runs toward the sideline late in the second half against NCOA.
 

Commander's Cup tournament concludes at Gerlach Field

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The 554th Engr. Bn. flag-football team celebrates after winning the Commanderís Cup Flag Football Tournament trophy for the second consecutive year. The 554th Engr. Bn. defeated NCOA, 14-8, in the championship game Friday night at Gerlach Field.
Story and photos by Matt Decker

Assistant editor
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The 554th Engineer Battalion took home the Commander’s Cup Flag Football Tournament trophy for the second consecutive year, winning the 2018 championship game with a 14-8 victory over the Noncommissioned Officer Academy Friday night at Gerlach Field.

“It’s awesome,” said quarterback Justin Cramer. “From last year to this year, we had to bring our team together a little bit more, because we lost some players and we had some injuries. These guys are great. This year, our goal was to go undefeated in the tournament and win the championship — and that’s what we did.”

Col. Tracy Lanier, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Leonard Wood Commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Larry Orvis, USAG Fort Leonard Wood command sergeant major, congratulated all participants and presented the championship trophy to the 554th Engr. Bn. players.

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554th Engr. Bn. wide receiver Jabari Gamble, left, embraces teammate Demetrius Smedley late in the second half.
“That was a heck of a game!” Lanier said as he handed the trophy to  Cramer.

In a game rife with penalties which saw both teams advance the ball in fits and starts, the 554th relied heavily on their defense, which successfully disrupted NCOA’s passing game through most of the first half and nearly all of the second half.  

“We first linked up with man coverage, but we noticed that they started running the option, so we moved more toward a zone,” said 554th defensive back Deangelo Stevenson, who is also the defensive coordinator for the team.

“We set the corners to get the pitch man or the running backs, so we just sort of shadowed over the top of the safety — that’s what I did. It didn’t leave them with a lot of options, and it seemed to work really well for us,” Stevenson said.

Cramer said the defense made the difference.

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Jaehyeon Lee, 554th Engr. Bn., starts the second half with a kickoff to NCOA.
“They played really well,” Cramer said. “On offense, we struggled a little bit at times, but our defense — they picked it up.”

It was NCOA’s defense, however, that shined in the first half, sacking Cramer on the first play from scrimmage for a 10-yard loss. A 9-yard run by Marty Smith brought the ball back to the midfield, but NCOA linebacker Axl Castoneda knocked down a short pass on fourth down to force a turnover.

On their first offensive series, NCOA starting quarterback Thomary Winslow moved the ball forward on two quarterback keepers, but had three passes knocked down by the 554th Engr. Bn. secondary, including a fourth-and-goal play from the 10-yard line.

Taking over at their own 20, successive 10-yard runs by Demetrius Smedley and Smith gave the Engineers a first down at midfield. Two plays later Cramer made a short pass to Jeff Oloughlin at the 5-yard line, who ran it into the left corner for the team’s first touchdown of the game.

“I saw the corner, I broke off of him and went for the score going across the field,” Oloughlin said. “I got open in the middle, and got a chance to make a play.”

A pass to Waddell Tollison at the other end of the field completed the 2-point conversion for an 8-0 lead.

With Ricardo Anciola now in at quarterback and Winslow playing running back, NCOA moved the ball forward 20 yards on a couple of running plays on the next series. But on a third-down play, Stevenson made an interception at midfield and ran the ball to the 30-yard line for the 554th Engr. Bn.

The engineers’ good fortune was short lived, however, as three plays later, Ronald Robinson got the ball back for NCOA on an interception.

But on the next play, 554th Engr. Bn. defensive back Malik Griffin then intercepted an NCOA pass as time expired in the first half.

The back-and-forth would continue through most of the second half, with neither team scoring until the final minute.

With about 45 seconds on the clock on a second-and-goal play from the 15-yard line, Cramer threw a 10-yard pass to Jabari Gamble, who ran the final five yards for a touchdown. The 2-point conversion attempt was broken up by the NCOA defense, but the 554th Engr. Bn. led, 14-0.

With a new quarterback in and 36 seconds remaining, NCOA stuck to their ground game, driving the ball to 1-yard line. NCOA receiver Theo Adama caught a touchdown pass in the end-zone, and a successful 2-point conversion put eight points on the board.

With only six seconds remaining after the following kick-off, Cramer downed the ball and took a knee to let time expire and secure the win.

Earlier Friday, the 58th Transportation Battalion had a successful showing for a 6-0 win over the 14th Military Police Brigade in the tournament’s third-place game.

In one of the biggest upsets of the season, NCOA defeated the 14th MP Bde., 17-14 on Nov. 29 in the tournament semi-final to reach the championship game.

The 554th beat the 58th Trans. Bn., 38-6 earlier Nov. 29 to reach the  championship.