Army sinks Navy in flag football

by Ethan Jenkins
Special to Stripes Korea

YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea – Even with Army up by two touchdowns at halftime, at no point did Navy’s faithful lose hope that the sailors would bounce back and score a rare victory over the soldiers.

“I expect Navy to take it back in the second half,” said Navy fan Shane Blocher. “Actually, we have a lot of Marines, so even if we don’t win, these guys are sure to put up a fight and put some points on the board.”

Neither happened.

Soldiers from 8th U.S. Army’s Area II, mainly Yongsan, went on to win 38-0 in Saturday’s 20th renewal of the Army-Navy flag-football rivalry games played on the Korean peninsula, the last 18 at Yongsan’s Lombardo Field or at Seoul American High School’s Sims Field.

Such rivalry games have existed in the Pacific since 1990, when soldiers from 10th Regional Support Group and Fleet Activites Okinawa began gathering every first Saturday in December at Torii Station for their own games.

Army won the Okinawa game – staged at Camp Shields for the first time – by a 25-0 score and holds a commanding 19-8 lead in that series, though Navy had won four of the previous five games.

Korea’s rivalry game for the Peninsula Trophy began in 1997 and was held at Camp Humphreys for its first two years. Soldier have been even more dominating in this series, leading 17-3 following Saturday’s shutout victory.

And in 2002, sailors and Marines from Yokosuka Naval Base began going up against soldiers from nearby Camp Zama. That rivalry has since become mainly Zama soldiers vs. sailors from Naval Air Facility Atsugi.

Navy broke the string of shutouts in Korea and Okinawa, but still fell 14-13, giving Army an 8-7 lead in this series, a Pacific sweep this year and a 44-18 overall lead.

These games are designed to coincide with the Army-Navy service academy games that conclude college football’s regular season. Saturday’s game was played at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium on the Naval Academy campus at Annapolis, Md.

Saturday’s flag contest at Sims Field was conducted before just over 100 fans and under pastel-blue skies but the temperatures were a bit on the chilly side, 35 at game time.

This year’s Army team featured the youngest ever to play in the series – Ethan Grazak, a seventh grader at Seoul American Middle School who is the son of Seoul American High’s assistant principal, Erin Grazak.

“I expected Army to win, especially with their long winning streak,” said longtime Area II sports director Bennie Jackson, who helped launch the series. Army has now won nine straight Peninsula Trophy games.

While they are rivals on the field, ranking recreation officials say the true goals of the game go far beyond what happens between the sidelines.

“Remember folks, no matter the outcome tonight, katchi kapshida, we go together, we serve together,” said Yongsan’s recreation chief Tim Higgs, invoking the Korean expression which means “let’s go together.”

“It isn’t a complete contest. The whole point of tonight is unity,” Higgs said.


Ethan Jenkins is a student-journalist at Seoul American High School.

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