By Staff Sgt. Scott McNabb, 460th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published December 11, 2007
BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo -- The Chiefs squeaked out an 8-6 victory against the Eagles Friday using a defensive stand to deny a come-from-behind victory in the waning seconds of the game.
Christopher Ayres, 460th Operations Group commander, deals with pressure situations for a living, but came just short of snaring a victory for his team during the yearly battle that pits group and squadron commanders against chief master sergeants and first sergeants.
With less than 10 seconds left in the game, the group commander dove for a 30-yard bullet pass by the Eagles quarterback. He stretched out, wrapped his frigid digits around the cold, brown leather and held on for dear life as gravity, predictable and unrelenting, had its way. Ayres gained control of the ball just as the ground pressed back up toward him making it an incomplete pass and securing the win for the Chiefs.
"Well, you know, it's all about impact on the ground because that's what happened with it. I'm a rugby player. I've got no hands and that was exactly an impact hit and it bounced out, but fair game," said the colonel. "The important thing is that it's bonding on Team Buckley trying to get the commanders and chiefs and first sergeants - everybody to get to know each other and have a great event for Operation Warm Heart."
Both offenses proved dangerous early on, but production on that side of the ball dropped rapidly along with the mercury as the game wore on and freezing gave way to frozen tundra.
The Chiefs kicked off and Thomas Morea, 460th Security Forces Squadron commander, returned the shallow kick for seven yards.
Jeff Kelman, the Eagles quarterback and ADF Communications Squadron commander, The Eagles' QB faked a pass on first down, tucked the ball into his side and chewed up a huge chunk of the Chief's real estate for a first down in their red zone. He wasn't finished setting the tone. He looked down field for the next play finding Brian Chellgren, Det. 45 commander, with a laser beam to the left side. The receiver darted through two defenders, spun past two more and broke free for the score.
The Eagles lined up to try for two points, but the Chiefs didn't bite on the fake hand off and denied the pass to the right side.
Kevin Candler, 460th Space Wing command chief, returned the ensuing kickoff for 17 yards. The Chiefs went to the option right away and picked up seven yards with a shovel pass to the right side.
The Chiefs back hauled in another pass, juked inside and pounded out three yards. The Eagles' defensive line broke down the Chiefs' blockers and put pressure on the Michael Deeter, the Chiefs quarterback and NCOIC of a Naval unit on base. The field general showed poise, set his feet and launched a pass down the left sideline that hit his receiver in the hands 25 yards downfield. The ball bounced off the receiver's hands and into the grasp of Eldrick Hill, 460th Civil Engineer Squadron operations officer. No stranger to the defensive secondary, the former Air Force Academy safety eluded tacklers and regained some ground for the Eagles before a Chief tore away his flags.
Not to be outdone, David Lawrence , 460th OG command chief, picked off a short pass on the next play. QB hoisted up a rainbow that hit Frank Graziano Jr., 460th Medical Group first sergeant, in stride for a TD.
The Chiefs converted for two points as Richard Puckett, 460th Mission Support Squadron first sergeant, held on to the ball in the corner of the end zone. It proved to be the difference.
The Eagles' deep man returned the kickoff for 17 yards. Wayne McGee, 460th Space Wing commander made his presence known with a catch for 13 yards on the right side. Lawrence stopped the base commander suddenly which brought on light hearted jeers from the Eagles sideline.
Kelman found Chellgren again across the middle. The pass came low and fast and the receiver made a fingertip grab to keep the offense clicking. Ayres made a grab for short yardage, but the play was called back for an offsides penalty. Penalties killed the next gain as well, as the quarterback was called for flag guarding during a 28-yard jont through the middle of the Chiefs' defense.
At third-down and 12 yards to go, the Eagles went to the air again. Clay Conner, Aerospace Data Facility Navy Security Agency, broke up the play in the end zone. On fourth down, McGee was drawn offsides on a miscommunication and at fourth and 17, the Eagles wisely played the game of field position and punted the ball away.
The Chiefs took over on their 17-yard line. Deeter set his sights downfield. He stretched the field with a long pass intended for Puckett, but Hill knocked the ball down to break up the play. The Chiefs, not immune from the penalty bug, were called for offsides.
Deeter went back to Puckett on the right side. The shirt caught the ball at the 30, spun in what looked like slow motion and advanced another 15 yards before being stopped by Hill.
The Chiefs gave up ground on a dropped snap that set them back five yards. They made up the five yards through the air on the ensuing play, but time was running out in the first half and the Chiefs called a time out with 15 seconds remaining.
The Eagles' defense stiffened and a long bomb to Lawrence was broken up to end the half.
Both teams claimed the key to the second half would be scoring. Neither team did. Strong passing games for each team wore out the field between the twenties, but errors and defensive effort made the red zones inhospitable.
Conner dropped a pass that would have brought the Chiefs within close range at the Eagles 25 yard line. The Chiefs went to the left side and picked up five yards on a pass.
The Eagles disregarded the temperature and turned up the heat with an intense pass rush led by Charlotte Wilson, 460th Space Wing vice commander. She burst through the offensive line and put a hand in the quarterback's face - forcing him to get rid of the ball for a three yard pick up.
The Chiefs went to the air once more but came up empty and were forced to punt. The Eagles didn't make up much ground on the return and began on their 16 yard line. After a feeble attempt at resurrecting the ground game and a holding call, the Eagles took to the air again. William Liquori, Flight Operations Center, made the grab, spun and ate up 35 yards when the dust settled.
Kelman looped a pass over the middle to Chellgren on the next play and tallied another 13 yards. They had the Chiefs on their heels - backpedaling and unable to stop hemorrhaging yards as Kelman sliced the defense with the steady hand of a surgeon.
Then it happened ...
Kelman chucked a bullet pass over the middle of the field to David Thompson, ADF commander, sent his team's spirits skyward, but what goes up ... . The referee stopped the action among complaints that Thompson's flags wouldn't come off. Complaints that turned out to be fact. The referee walked up to the huge commander and pulled hard on his flags. Nothing. He pulled again to no avail.
No touchdown. No lead with the clock winding down. Ten additional yards to overcome. The Chiefs' defense held and because the penalty took the Eagles out of the red zone, they punted on fourth down instead of going for it. Neither team got closer to scoring until the final drive as the Eagles made their way up the field against the Chiefs and the clock.
Fourth and long, Ayres went to the air and came away empty.
Grant Murphy, a chief with the 460th Space Communications Squadron, said flags and tight defense ruled the day.
"All scoring happened in the first half. Without a couple penalties on our side and some really good defensive play, we might have lost that game," he said. "All I kept telling the defense was to make sure that they kept everything in front of them, because if you keep it in front, then it's no problem getting to them and getting the flags. It's when they get behind you, now it's all lost and they're going to score a touchdown."
Good thing scoring wasn't what the game was about.
"It's a great charity case with Operation Warm Heart," said Ayres. "It was a fun time. It doesn't come close to last year's game when it was a blow out, so we're very happy we kept within the margins of two."