MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
The Combat Center hosted the annual Best of the West Football Championship that brought the Marine Corps Air Station, Miramar Falcons to face Headquarters Battalion at Felix Field Dec. 8.
The undefeated Headquarters team came into the game as the Combat Center intramural league champions, and the Falcons represented Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton’s league to wrap up their perfect season.
Christine Anslow, Provost Marshal’s Office, took the honor of starting the event by singing the national anthem.
Following a short return after the opening kickoff, the Headquarters offense wasted no time and gave the ball to Headquarters running back, Ryan Kennelly, for a 20-yard gain on the ground.
After three downs, Charles Jefferson, Headquarters quarterback, showed his composure on fourth down and ran the ball 30 yards into the end zone.
The two-point conversion attempt failed but left Headquarters with a comfortable six-point cushion over the Falcons after their opening drive.
Despite a 30-yard return by Miramar running back, Cordero Davis, on the following return, the Falcons fumbled the ball on fourth down to point the possession arrow in Headquarters’ direction.
The Falcons defense stood their ground on the next drive, causing Headquarters to turn the ball over on downs.
Eager to get on the scoreboard, Miramar running back, Marcus Rosemond, sparked his offense with a 25-yard run.
Davis fed off his teammate’s intensity on the following play and ran 15 more yards into Headquarters territory.
Four plays later, Miramar quarterback, Nick Kostelny, moved his team from a fourth down situation to a first and goal by passing to tight end, Chris Spencer.
Rosemond sealed the score with a two-yard touchdown run, and Davis added two points on the ground to put his team on top, 8-6, at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter started slow with both teams turning the ball over on downs and ending up in Headquarters possession.
Miramar linebacker, Timothy Wolanski, was responsible for Headquarters’ only turnover with an interception, but the Falcons gave the ball back after going four and out.
Headquarters running back, Ron Hampton, capitalized on his team’s great field position and ran for 20 yards to make it first and goal.
Jefferson stuck in the following touchdown with a short pass to Victor Runsewe and continued his dominating performance by scoring the two point conversion, coming off a quarterback draw.
Not to be outdone, the Falcons started plotting down the field with a wide receiver reverse sweep to Jeremy Rykard for 15 yards.
Davis added another first down with 10 yards on the ground, and Kostenly with a shovel pass to wide receiver, Vick Lee.
Rykard stayed in the offensive rotation with a 17-yard catch near the goal line, and Rosemond pounded it up the middle of the defense the following play to tie the score 14-14.
The Falcons came up short on the two point conversion when Headquarters wide receiver, Dwayne McGeachy, intercepted the ball in the end zone to deny any lead changes before halftime.
Although the Falcons had the strategic advantage of starting the second half with the ball, they were stopped short, going three and out.
Rykard surprised the Felix Field crowd by punting the ball into the end zone after a nonexistent kicking game in the first half.
Headquarters not only turned the ball over on downs the next drive, but gave the other team possession on their own 25-yard line.
Davis graciously accepted the defense’s invitation to the end zone with a 25-yard touchdown run on the following play.
The Falcons did not convert after the score, but they did earn their first lead since the first quarter, 20-14.
Motivated to take the lead back, Jefferson and Hampton used their running ability to their advantage and set up their offense in Falcons territory.
Hampton swept past the defense in the red zone and ran down the sideline to even the score with an acrobatic move at the goal line.
Jay Kwentua, Headquarters running back and middle linebacker, stuck in the two-point conversion on the ground and put his team up 22-20.
The Falcons special teams had a major breakdown on the following kickoff, fumbling and turning the ball back over to a red hot Headquarters offense on their own 45-yard line.
Jefferson kept the momentum rolling into the fourth quarter with a 30-yard first down pass to McGeachy on a fourth and long dilemma.
The Falcons defense continued to get picked apart by Jefferson’s passing game with a long pass to Headquarters wide receiver, Chris Heltebran, and another to Runsewe for the quick score.
The conversion would not go, but the 28-20 lead kept Headquarters where they wanted to be, midway through the fourth quarter.
The next two drives proved to be stalemates, and as the Falcons started to put another effort together, Kwentua stopped them in their tracks with an interception on the defensive end of the ball.
Confident with the game’s momentum swinging their way, the Headquarters running game charged down the field and set up their special teams for a field goal on fourth down.
The Falcons rejected the nail in the coffin by blocking the kick and setting their offense up at midfield with three minutes left in the game.
After getting sacked the first play of the drive, Kostenly put his reserve on display and dropped a 40-yard bomb into the hands of Rykard in the red zone.
Davis didn’t stray far from the game plan and kept the ball on the ground for a 12-yard touchdown with one minute remaining in the fourth quarter.
Down 28-26, the Falcons needed a successful two point conversion to stay in the game.
With the game on the line and everyone at Felix Field on the edge of their seat, Kostelny handed the ball off to Davis for the go-ahead score.
What seemed like an open hole in the defense, quickly turned into Johnnie Sanders, Headquarters defensive coach and middle linebacker, who stopped Davis short of the goal line with the most important defensive play of the ballgame.
The Headquarters offense kept the clock moving on the next drive and sealed the team’s spot in the history books with an undefeated season and a 28-26 Best of the West Football Championship victory over the Falcons.
“Our team performance has been outstanding all season long,” said Daymian Brown, Headquarters head coach. “We spent a lot of time practicing the fundamentals, and it really came together in the second half of today’s game.”
Brig. Gen. Melvin G. Spiese, Combat Center commanding general, took the field after the game and presented the teams and players with their respective awards.
The Falcons named Van Black as their team’s most valuable player, and Johnnie Sanders took Headquarters MVP honors after the game-deciding defensive stop near the end zone, late in the fourth quarter.
Jefferson was honored as the championship game MVP after scoring three touchdowns, a two-point conversion and collecting almost 300 yards of total offense.
“We had perfect offensive execution and good ball protection this game,” said Jefferson. “We went undefeated and proved we are the best of the West.”
With the likely return of Brown to the sideline next football season, Headquarters may continue to pose a threat for opposing football teams in 2008.