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14th Annual Puget Sound Classic

Third win proves elusive

Navy captures flag football trophy during rainy rivalry

Published: 03:11PM November 21st, 2013
Third win proves elusive

Scott Hansen/Northwest Guardian

Army running back Brian Freeman races for a first down during the annual Puget Sound Classic flag football rivalry with Navy Nov. 15 at Naval Station Everett.

EVERETT — Since the inaugural Puget Sound Classic 14 years ago, neither Army nor Navy has won three years in a row.

Both Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s Army and Navy Region Northwest had come close, and after the 14th Annual Army vs. Navy flag football game at Naval Station Everett Nov. 15, the pattern continues.

JBLM won the last two meetings, but when the team entered Navy’s new stadium, it had to leave the trophy behind after Navy won 9-0.

In similar fashion to last year’s rain-soaked contest at JBLM, the teams fought to move the ball through a steady rain. Early in the first quarter Navy got on the board when JBLM botched a snap into the end zone, resulting in a safety.

Down by two, JBLM’s defense shut down any advances from Navy, highlighted by interceptions by Victor Carter and Marquis Batts.

“We went out there and executed,” said JBLM cornerback Ryan Tomsic. “Everyone did what they’re supposed to do. We just needed the opportunity to put them away.”

But Army’s host responded with a dominant defense as well.

The 2-0 score held all the way through until the final minute when Army quarterback Ricardo Terrio threw an interception to put Navy in the red zone. Navy scored on an 18-yard pass play with 15 seconds left for the 9-0 lead.

But JBLM didn’t roll over and quit. Army’s Brian Freeman, a former Fresno State University running back, returned the kickoff to Navy’s 4-yard line. But the burst wasn’t enough to get Army into the end zone. The clock ran out and the game ended in a Navy shutout.

Freeman said the kickoff return is his specialty, but because Army kept the ball on the ground for most of its offense, Freeman was pulled off the return — until the final kickoff. “The only thing going through my head, was ‘score a touchdown, score a touchdown,’” Freeman said. “And then they pulled my flag at the last minute.”

As the team gathered for its final huddle, first-year coach Charlie Blake was already talking about next year when Navy Region Northwest returns to JBLM’s Cowan Stadium for the 15th Annual Puget Sound Classic.

“We’ll go back and get ready for next year when they come into our house,” Blake told his team. “Hold your heads up. We’re Soldiers, we don’t look at the ground, we look up. We look people in the eye. When we walk off the field, we walk off with our heads up.”

The tradition of the annual contest between the two Pacific Northwest installations runs alongside the tradition of the college football Army-Navy game of the United States Military Academy and the United States Naval Academy.

A film crew for USAA was present in Everett to record the Puget Sound Classic for footage to use in commercials to be aired during the 113th Annual Army-Navy Game Dec. 14. The crew captured such images as the Navy band performing as rosters were announced and JBLM commander Col. H. Charles Hodges Jr. talking to Army before opening kickoff.

“You have to represent and bring home the game,” Hodges said to the team. “Represent JBLM and represent the Army. Go get it.”

The pre-game ceremonies included a moment of silence in honor of Carol Green-Sistrunk, the wife of longtime Army-Navy supporter Otis Sistrunk, who passed away Nov. 3. The Puget Sound Classic trophy has found a new home for the next year after spending the last two years at JBLM. But if Army has its way, the trophy will stay when Navy brings it back to JBLM next fall.

“That’s why they make next year,” Blake said. “We’ll be back.”