Late comeback raises Port Royal to victory

Hull Maintenance Technician 3rd Class Clive Gunter goes above the defense while battling for the football. Gunter caught one pass for a touchdown earlier in the game.

Story and photo by Randy Dela Cruz

Sports Editor, Ho‘okele

With only 28 seconds remaining in the game, USS Port Royal (CG 73) quarterback Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class Dalton Runneberg connected with Information Systems Technician 3rd Class Dre Clark for a 65-yard catch-and-run to pay dirt. That led to a stunning 20-19 victory over USS Jefferson City (SSN 759) on Sept. 30 in an Afloat Division intramural flag football game at Ward Field, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

Port Royal improved their record to 2-1, while Jefferson City now stands at 1-1.

Jefferson City appeared to lock down the win after Machinist’s Mate (Auxiliary) 3rd Class Solomon Jones sacked Runneberg back at the Port Royal three-yard line with time ticking away.

After a penalty for illegal participation set the ball on the one-yard line, Jefferson City quarterback Machinist’s Mate (Auxiliary) 3rd Class Trevor Samson snuck the ball over the goal line for what seemed to be the game-winning touchdown, as Jefferson City took a 19-12 lead with only 28 seconds on the clock.

Instead of rolling over, Runneberg dropped back from his own 15-yard line on the first play from scrimmage and rifled a bullet into the hands of Clark, who was cutting through the middle of the field.

Clark made the catch, avoided one would-be tackler and took it to the house for a touchdown that pulled Port Royal to within a point at 19-18.

“I just trusted my quarterback,” said Clark, who recorded an interception while on defense earlier in the game. “I told him I would be open and just trusted that he would find me.”

Instead of going for the one-point conversion to tie the game, head coach Len Nuanez rolled the dice and went for the win with a two-point attempt.

With the team up for the gamble, Runneberg took two steps back and then fired a pass to Quartermaster 2nd Class Tevin Shelton, who made the grab just inside the end zone for the win.

“As soon as I knew what the score was, it was go for the win,” Nuanez said about his gutsy call. “What we were actually trying to do was use some of the mismatches inside. We looked at what we had and took advantage of what we could.”

The game-winning play wasn’t the only big play that Port Royal accomplished in the game.

Earlier, as the team was trailing 13-6, Port Royal found themselves backed up against the wall with the nose of the ball just touching their own goal line.

Facing a first and 20 from Port Royal’s own one, starting quarterback Ensign Andrew Santacroce took a short drop back into his end zone and fired a short pass to Damage Controlman 2nd Class Jacob Min, who caught the ball at around the 15-yard line.

Min shifted his way past a couple of defenders and sprung out into the open, where he proceeded to go all the way to the end zone, which pulled Port Royal back into the game trailing at 13-12.

Min’s catch-and-run covered 79 yards and may be the longest gain from scrimmage this season.

“That play right there was huge,” Nuanez said. “That was a momentum changer. It turned around the whole game. He (Min) just put the team on his back and said, ‘Hey, let’s get this done.'”

Nuanez, who was coaching in his first game, said that the win was on the players and sets the stage for more good things to come.

“These guys are phenomenal athletes and we decided to capitalize on it,” he said. “They came out, got in positions to make some plays and I just let them do what they do. This definitely sets the bar.”

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Category: Sports