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JBLM coach leads Air Force to silver

Northwest Guardian

Published: 02:29PM September 1st, 2016
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“For us coming forward, we recognize that the Army has put in place a program that is at that level and we have to develop our guys as best we can to facilitate cohesion.”

Lieutenant Colonel

John “Andy” McQuade

Deputy commander of 627th Air Base Group, All-Air Force Rugby coach

Lieutenant Colonel John “Andy” McQuade, the deputy commander of the 627th Air Base Group at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, recognizes that the All-Army rugby program is at a much higher level than the All-Air Force program.

He just hopes to one day close that gap and break Army’s streak of dominance in sevens rugby.

McQuade was the head coach for the All-Air Force squad that once again took second place in the Armed Forces Men’s Rugby Championships. The tournament was played in one of the pools of the 2016 Serevi Rugbytown Sevens tournament Friday to Sunday at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colo.

The Air Force once again struggled to top the now four-time champions in All-Army. In their first meeting in pool play, Army dominated the game by a score of 41-0. Air Force racked up a couple of wins between Friday and Saturday to move into second place in the standings.

The three-game winning streak included a 38-5 win over Navy, a close 14-5 win over the Coast Guard and a sizable 27-7 win over the Marines.

The Army was the Air Force team’s kryptonite in the rematch during the championship game in a 55-5 loss Saturday.

“They have a very good program, and we respect what they’ve done,” McQuade said. “For us coming forward, we recognize that the Army has put in place a program that is at that level and we have to develop our guys as best we can to facilitate cohesion.”

With the loss to Army, Air Force’s work wasn’t done. All teams were then placed into four different championship brackets for a chance to win trophies. Although the tournament’s cup was the top prize in the tournament, teams were also competing for the tournament’s Plate, Bowl and Shield.

The tournament overall featured plenty of talented teams from all over the world who were aiming for the $10,000 winner-takes-all prize for winning the Cup championship. Both Army and Air Force started in the Cup quarterfinals, with the Air Force falling to the Ramblin Jesters of the United Kingdom, 45-0.

The Air Force squad fell into the semifinals for the Plate, only to lose to the SoCal Griffins from Long Beach, Calif., 42-5 during the final day of the tournament.

McQuade noted that the Armed Forces Championship was played in a 20-minute format instead of the usual pair of seven-minute halves. This drained both Army and Air Force players before they went into the Cup quarterfinal round.

“That’s going to be an aspect that puts us in a bad spot, but the civilian teams coming into this tournament are world-class teams,” McQuade said.

Although a silver medal isn’t bad, McQuade said he would love to clinch gold and break the All-Army team’s streak at the Armed Forces Men’s Rugby Championships next year. There will be a big focus on building more cohesion amongst the All-Air Force rugby program while recruiting more athletes to come to camps.

Additionally, McQuade wants to build experience for the new and younger players who had never played in front of more than 1,000 fans under the lights.

This is why he rolled in the younger athletes on his team in the games against the Ramblin’ Jesters and the SoCal Griffins.

“As we move forward, our desire is to get as many Air Force guys in (as we can) to get them that experience,” McQuade said. “When they roll out there again, we won’t have the jitters or the nerves.”

Dean Siemon: 253-477-0235, @deansiemon