Army stop 2-point conversion to beat Navy in flag football
CAMP ZAMA, Japan – Navy seemed to be in good position to capture its second straight come-from-behind victory in its flag-football rivalry game with soldiers from Camp Zama.
But an Army defender tipped away a two-point pass with 22 seconds left, preserving the 14-13 victory Saturday by the soldiers over their rivals out of Naval Air Facility Atsugi, and giving them an 8-7 lead in a series that began in 2002.
It completed a sweep by Army of the three flag games played in Japan, Okinawa and Korea; Army leads 44-18 a series that began with the first such game played on Okinawa in 1990, followed in 1997 in Korea.
It was the latest installment in a series that coincides with the annual Army-Navy service academy games that traditionally end college football’s regular season. This year’s game was played Saturday at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium on the Naval Academy campus at Annapolis, Md.
And like those nationally-televised showdowns, the spirit of rivals on the field but comrades in arms off it was ever present both in pre-game and post-game remarks by senior leadership.
“Even though it was a competitive game, 364 days out of the year, the Army and Navy are the closest of allies and the best of friends,” said U.S. Army Garrison Camp Zama commanding officer, Col. William Johnson.
“On one day, we set it all aside for the greatest athletic rivalry in all of American sports. As it turns out, it goes beyond rivalry. It is actually an institution of brother with brother on the field. We are a very close community and the closeness is based in service, friendship and fun.”
“The game was a true example of the great respect both services have to each other not only in our community but wherever we serve,” added NAF Atsugi’s commanding officer, Capt. John F. Bushey.
Under cloudless skies, with 53-degree temperature at kickoff and before some 400 spectators, the sailors and soldiers capped a day filled with football, pageantry and contests. Hot dogs, hamburgers, fries and cold drinks were available as well.
A youth game preceded the Army-Navy tilt, with Navy children defeating Army 25-6. Colors were presented by the Junior ROTC unit of Zama American High School.
A Zama graduate, William Badillo, now stationed with the Army in Japan, had a chance to win a $10,000 prize by kicking a 60-yard field goal at halftime.
Known for his prowess both on the field and the basketball courts in high school, Badillo managed just a 30-yard kick. He received a gift card as consolation.
Army jumped in front quickly, using a flea-flicker to go in front early 7-0 and doubled that margin by the end of the first half.
But Navy scored on its first possession of the second half, cutting the lead in half, then with spectators hollering support on both sides, Navy got within a point with just 22 seconds left. Army then deflected away the potential winning two-point pass, and ran out the clock.
Traditionally, it’s the losing team in an Army-Navy game that must sing the other service’s theme song.
But the game’s host, Colonel Johnson, said in the spirit of the joint military community and combined arms effort, that Navy should not be left alone to sing the Army song.
He passed out copies of the Army song to Bushey and to both teams. Members of both squads sang the Army song with gusto, joined quickly by spectators.
“It was nice to get together with our Army brothers in a friendly, spirited rivalry, as part of a great tradition in our joint community,” Bushey said afterward.
Richard L. Rodgers is an information technologist at Zama American Middle School.