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Posted: November 9, 2017 3:16 p.m.
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2-3 Aviation four-peats as champions

Steve Hart/

Company E, 2-3 Aviation celebrate winning the Hunter Intramural Flag Football Championship game 14-13 against the 3-160 SOAR team  Nov. 6 at Hunter Army Airfield.   

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Mario Holly shook off a rough first half and found his rhythm in the second half to lead Company E, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment to a come from behind thrilling 14-13 win over the 3rd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment in the 2017 Intramural Flag Football Championship Game at Hunter Army Airfield’s Squires Sports Complex, Nov. 6.

After three straight years as Hunter’s champions, Company E found itself in the unaccustomed position of having to fight itself out of the loser’s bracket to make it to the championship game.  

A narrow 20-14 win over Troop E, 3rd Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment in the finals of the loser’s bracket Nov. 2 allowed Company E another chance to defeat the Night Stalkers, the team that put them in the loser’s bracket with a 39-33 victory Nov. 1.

To win the Hunter championship a fourth consecutive time, E Company had the uphill challenge of beating the Night Stalkers twice Nov. 6 in the double elimination tournament.

    Game one was all Company E as the Warriors scored on its first four possessions to take a Commanding 26-0 lead. The Night Stalkers got their offense going in the second half but it wasn’t enough as the Warriors prevailed 32-13, forcing a second game for the championship. 

 Holly rushed 13 times for 121 yards and two scores.  He also completed eight of 11 passes for 107 yards.  Three of his passes went for scores.  

The Night Stalkers’ defense intercepted two passes in the contest.

Rob Robles threw for 39 yards and rushed for 52 more to lead the Warriors.  Backup quarterback Matthew Flores contributed a touchdown pass to the Warriors’ effort.

The entire season was riding on game two.

The Night Stalkers elected to start Flores at quarterback.  That proved to be a good decision as the Night Stalkers took the opening possession for a touchdown featuring two Flores pass completions and ending with a Flores 25-yard run to pay dirt.  The point after attempt would fail.

The Warriors moved the ball on its first two plays following the Night Stalkers score but then Kelvin Irving began blitzing from his linebacker position.  He sacked Holly for 12 yards on first down and then put immense pressure on Holly resulting in two hurried throws that fell incomplete.  The Night Stalkers would have to punt.

Following an incomplete pass, Flores hit Irving on a short out and Irving eluded defenders for a 28 yard gain.  Flores then found a receiver open, but the ball went through his receiver’s hands and into the Warriors’ Terrell Pickney’s for an interception.

The Warriors completed a pass for 20 yards but couldn’t get anything going due to Irving’s pass rush.  On fourth down, Hollis attempted a run for the first down but was stopped short by Michael Neyer.

The Night Stalkers expanded their lead to 12-0 on the next possession when Flores completed three passes, two to Irving, including a TD strike for 43 yards.  Flores’ short pass to Chris Champion for the PAT pushed the lead to 13-0.

After putting up 26 points on the Night Stalkers in the first half of game one, the Warriors found themselves on the short end of a 13-0 score at halftime.  

“We had to make an adjustment, said James Sanders, the Night Stalkers’ coach.  “We kept our more of our linemen in to help pass block.”

The change had an impact.  Hollis had more time to read the defense and could pick his running lanes.  Held to 25 yards rushing in the first half and being sacked three times, he ran wild in the second half, amassing 85 yards on nine carries and a score.  His passing improved with more time, as well.  He completed just three passes in 11 attempts in the first half and two for four in the second half.

Holly led his team down the field on its first possession to open the second half.  The big play was a 43-yard pass to Pickney who out-jumped the defender at the Night Stalkers’ three yard line for the athletic catch.  Hollis ran the ball on the next play.  A Holly to Jamal Stevens pass for the PAT made closed the Warriors to 13-7.

Both teams couldn’t get anything going until four minutes remained in the contest.

 Holly showed blazing speed and elusiveness darting and weaving down the field and as he was about to have his flag pulled at the Night Stalkers’ eight, he pitched the ball to Pickney who was trailing the play.  Pickney would then trot to the end zone to tie the game at 13.  Holly’s chest pass throw to Stevens gave the Warriors their first lead, 14-13.

 The Night Stalkers’ rallied.  Flores completed at pass for 16 yards for a first down.  After an incomplete pass, Flores connected with Daniel Thompson for nine yards.  Flores’ ran the ball for 10 yards and was down one yard shy of a first down.  Flores then hit Thompson for a two-yard throw for the first down to keep the drive alive.  After a seven yard pass to Irving, Flores’ long pass was intercepted by Pinckney.

The Warriors would then run out the clock and celebrated their fourth straight championship.

“I’m proud of my team the way we played the second half,” said Ernest Poteau, the Night Stalkers’ coach.  “The loss was very disappointing.  We weren’t hungry in the first game, kinda taking for granted we would win since we beat them before in the tournament.  But we played well in game two; it must have taken that spanking in game one for us to regain our focus.”

“I had confidence in our guys,” Sanders said.  “I told them at halftime that we would win if we kept doing what we were doing.”

 The next challenge for the Warriors is facing the 530th Engineering Battalion, Fort Stewart’s league champion, for bragging rights.  The two powerhouses square off at Hunter’s Tominac Sports Complex Nov. 7.

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