792/8 IS Hangar 5 shocks Joint Base flag football league

Staff Sgt. Nicolas Chung reaches above two defenders to grab a pass for a touchdown.

Story and photos by Randy Dela Cruz

Sports Editor, Ho‘okele

At the start of the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam intramural flag football playoffs, everyone looked to one of the four regular season division leaders to step away with the 2017 championship trophy.

Instead, much to the surprise of all, the unheralded 792/8 Intelligence Squadron Hangar 5 Warriors, who finished the regular season with a 6-2 record, pulled off an amazing feat. They captured the title for the first time in their history after beating the Gold Division champs 735th Air Mobility Squadron (735 AMS), 19-14, on Nov. 20 at Earhart Field, JBPHH.

“We were the under-dog throughout the whole bracket,” Senior Airman Aime Ezoua said. “We had two losses during the regular season and everyone was looking away from us. We came in with a chip on our shoulders and that’s how we came out every single game. We came out fired up. We were under the radar the whole way and we definitely opened some eyes.”

Staff Sgt. Nicolas Chung struggles forward for a couple of yards.

Against all odds, the Warriors advanced to the championship game after taking three games in the playoffs over the course of two days.

Squaring off against the 735 AMS, who finished their regular season with a near-perfect 7-1 record, Warriors head coach Master Sgt. Jermel Houston said that the team needed to come out hot and never let up in order to come out on top.

“What we do as a unit is that we always try to get the momentum first,” he said. “It’s hard to play from behind, so if we can get ahead of everybody, those guys got to play catch up on us.”

The Warriors got what they wanted when the team’s defense turned back the 735’s first drive of the game, which got all the way to the three-yard line before being stopped on fourth down.

After the tough defensive stand kept the score tied at 0-0, the Warrior offense used the stop to breathe life into a drive of their own.

Quarterback Staff Sgt. James Chaney methodically marched the team downfield before facing a crucial fourth-and-goal from 735’s 10-yard line.

Chaney dropped back to pass and zipped a pass down the middle and into the arms of receiver Staff Sgt. Luther Reck for a touchdown and early 7-0 lead after the one-point conversion.

The drive consumed eight minutes off the clock, but in just a few seconds the 735 got it all back.

On first down from his own 20, 735 quarterback Tech. Sgt. Marco Knight heaved a bomb down the right sideline and connected with Senior Airman Mar-quell Craig, who made the over-the-head catch and streaked untouched into the end zone for six points.

The successful extra point re-tied the score at 7-7, but just before half-time, Chaney put together a picture-perfect drive that used the clock to the team’s advantage.

With under a minute remaining before halftime, Chaney completed a clutch pass on fourth down to move the chains for a first down on the 735 15-yard line.

On the next play, Chaney found Staff Sgt. Nicolas Chung on the left side of the end zone for the team’s second touchdown and 13-7 lead going into the break.

Once Chaney and Chung found their timing synced together, the duo went right back to work in the second half.

Starting from his own 15, Chaney hooked up with Chung for two quick outs to pick up a couple of first downs, Then, on the ninth play of the drive, Chaney gambled and took a shot over the top.

Chung made it to the end zone and then fought off two defenders to grab the ball for a miraculous catch and touchdown.

“I noticed that their (735) safety was playing up and he wasn’t really paying attention to me in the middle,” Chung said. “So as long as I beat my cornerback, hit them hard with my post, I knew that the middle was going to be open.”

Down by two scores, the 735 did manage to score one more touchdown on another pass from Knight to Craig, but that would be as close as they would get.

Chaney, who ran the team’s ball-control offense perfectly, said that the win wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for the play of the Warriors defense.

“No matter how many catches we made or how many throws I made, our defense has bailed us out every time,” Chaney said. “The last three games we played was all defense. Senior Airman Augman (David) ran the defense and is a very good defensive coach.”

While the Warriors would take the time to savor the moment and championship, Ezoua said it’s never too early to start thinking about the next one.

“Always looking for that two-peat,” he said. “Maybe next year we’ll come back with more players and more support. We didn’t have the biggest team, but we had the best team with heart. They’ll be looking for us next year.”

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Category: Sports