It was a game of wit and carefully executed military maneuvers that landed the defending champion Air Force a 22-9 victory over Navy and the title yesterday in the fifth annual Interservice Championship tournament at the Lincoln Memorial.
The Army team handily defeated the Marines, 24-3, to finish third.
Although the Air Force didn't always have control of the ball, according to Air Force Coach Vern Francis, its strategy in anticipating Navy's strengths and weaknesses paid off.
"We knew their backs would be too much for us," said Francis. "We wanted to try and keep the ball with our forwards and move it up the field slowly in the scrum."
"With a bigger and heavier forward pack we knew we could wear them down by the second half," said Air Force team captain Kevin Swords. "We came out and scored some quick points in the first half and tried to keep moving forward. By the second half we figured we could start getting the ball out to the flanks more. After a couple of quick tries in the beginning of the second half, we figured we could just try and prevent them from moving the ball."
Air Force, which made three of four conversions, had a try awarded as a result of a penalty in a scrum.
"That kind of penalty is rare," said Francis. "But the referee evidently felt that Navy deliberately collapsed the scrum to prevent us from scoring."
The tournament is basically an all-star tournament with teams fielding their best players from throughout the world.
"In a situation like this," said Swords, "where you aren't playing with people you're used to playing with, the winner is usually the one where all of the guys start playing like a team first. No one can anticipate how the team members will actually come together and move the ball up the field."