Engineers earn blowout victory in tournament final
The 554th Engineer Battalion claimed the Commander’s Cup Flag Football Tournament title for the third consecutive year in commanding fashion, earning a 44-0 victory over the 14th Military Police Brigade in the championship game Oct. 18 at Fort Leonard Wood’s Field 1.
“We did awesome,” said Justin Cramer, the 554th’s quarterback for all three championship events who passed for six touchdowns in this year’s game. “We came out and played as a team — that’s been our goal since the beginning of the season: to come out as a team and go for a third championship. We did it.”
It was the perfect end to a perfect season for the team, which has had a core of players, including Cramer, who are scheduled to PCS later this year.
“It’s special because everybody’s leaving,” said wide receiver Demetrius Smedley. “We had plenty of fun this year. We added some new players to our team, which gave us some excitement, and we just kept going.”
The Engineers dominated the game from the beginning on both sides of the ball. The 554th Engr. Bn. defense allowed the 14th MP Bde. offense only eight yards on their first drive after the opening kickoff, culminating with a quarterback sack by defensive lineman Emmanuel Eleby to force a turnover at the 32-yard line.
Three plays later, Cramer had marched the 554th Engr. Bn. offense to the 1-yard line, where on a fourth-and-goal play, he threw a short, high pass to Eleby in the end zone for the first touchdown of the game. Lionel Hunter, filling in at quarterback for the 2-point conversion, threw a short pass to Demetrius Smedley to give the Engineers an 8-0 lead.
The 554th Engr. Bn. scored twice more in the first half. A six-yard touchdown pass from Cramer to Jeff O’Loughlin made it a 14-0 game, although the 14th MP Bde. defense prevented the conversion attempt. After an interception by Hunter gave the Engineers the ball back, carries by Cramer and Hunter put the ball at the 1-yard line, where Cramer then threw another touchdown pass, this time to Smedley, who scored on a diving catch. Hunter ran the ball in for two extra points, and 554th Engineers held a 22-0 lead at halftime.
The 554th Engineers scored again on their first possession after the second-half kickoff, this time on a lateral pitch from Cramer to Hunter, who ran it into the end zone from the 5-yard line. Trash talking resulted in one player from each team being ejected, but after a short delay, the two-point conversion attempt resumed, and Cramer ran the ball into the end zone to extend the Engineers’ lead to 30-0.
Once again, the 554th Engr. Bn. defense stymied the 14th MP Bde. attempt to gain any type of momentum, forcing a turnover on downs that gave the Engineers good field position.
A 20-yard touchdown pass from Cramer to Waddell Tollison and a successful 2-point conversion carry by Cramer extended the Engineers’ lead to 38-0. The game ended with a final 554th Engr. Bn. touchdown, this time on a 5-yard pass from Cramer to Rodriquez Mizell.
Prior to the championship game, the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence won the tournament’s third-place game with a 22-12 victory over the U.S. Marine Corps Detachment.
MSCoE, which has been plagued by injuries all season, played with the bare minimum of players and overcame an early deficit to end the season with a win.
“We just started playing. They went up on us, and we came back and played good defense,” said David Henderlite, MSCoE player/coach.
MSCoE quarterback Christopher McCoy said the team had a lot of support from family and friends throughout the season.
“We all have family out here showing their support, so we wanted to give everyone a great show,” McCoy said. “We’ve struggled all season, so to get to come out here and play against a great team like the Marines for third place — it was fun. I think this is one of the best games we’ve played all season.”
The tournament included all 10 teams that finished the regular season. Play began on Oct. 15, with the 50th Engineer Company earning a 16-12 win over the 515th Engineer Company and the Marine Det. picking up a forfeit win to advance.
In the second round of games played Oct. 15 and 16, MSCoE beat the 58th Transportation Battalion, 30-15; the 554th Engr. Bn. defeated the 50th Engineer Company, 30-14; the Marine Det. beat the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, 18-8 and the 14th MP Bde. defeated the 2nd Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment, 23-14.
The 554th Engr. Bn. advanced to the finals with a 36-6 win over MSCoE Oct. 17, while the 14th MP Bde. defeated the Marine Det. 24-16 later that evening to reach the championship game.
The flag-football tournament was the second Commander’s Cup event for the 2019 fiscal year. Up next: Teams face each other in the annual 3D Archery Tournament, scheduled for Friday at the Outdoor Adventure Center.