Navy tops Army in Okinawa flag football game
TORII STATION, Okinawa – Gregg Nieten turned Saturday’s Okinawa Army-Navy flag-football rivalry game into his own personal showcase.
The tight end caught a 60-yard second-quarter touchdown pass to give Navy the lead for good 7-3, then snagged a 38-yarder with 10:30 left to put it out of reach as the sailors outlasted a late Army rally for a 25-18 win – Navy’s third in four years and fourth in six years.
“I’m proud to play with these guys,” said Nieten, a Navy civilian who also played receiver in high school at Bad Axe, in Michigan’s northern thumb. “I’m just glad they let me play.”
Of helping Navy wrest back control of the rivalry series’ Commanders Trophy and slicing Army’s lead in the 25-year-old series to 18-7, Nieten – named the game’s Most Valuable Player – said: “It’s amazing. I’m glad to be a part of it.”
A beaming Capt. Michael Michel, Fleet Activities Okinawa’s commanding officer, accepted the Commanders Trophy from the losing team’s commanding officer, Col. Leon Plummer of Torii’s 10th Regional Support Command.
Navy was “winning” even before the game took place.
CFAO Command Master Chief Daniel Irwin and some of his senior enlisted cohorts visited Plummer’s home Friday evening, laying an anchor and sandbags labeled “Go Navy!” and an ersatz snowman wearing a Navy scarf.
Such hijinks were nowhere to be found in Navy quarters.
Army command told them “their pranksters were off-island,” Michel said. “They must have been TDY somewhere.”
Okinawa’s is the oldest Army-Navy game in the Pacific, having been in existence since 1990. Games such as that one and the ones played in the Kanto Plain and at Yongsan Garrison in Korea are closely timed with the Army-Navy service-academy games in the States.
This year’s game is scheduled for Saturday at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium. Kickoff is 5 a.m. Sunday on AFN Sports. Navy leads that series 58-49-7 and has won the last 12 straight games.
2008 West Point graduate Owen Tolson’s field goal gave Army a brief 3-0 lead. After Nieten’s first TD, Towand Hill ran 18 yards for a score to make it 15-3. Army sliced that lead on Tolson’s 10-yard pass to Anthony Smith to make it 15-10 at halftime.
A Mike Gentry field goal increased Navy’s lead to 18-10 late in the third, before Nieten’s second TD grab upped the margin to 15.
Army didn’t quit, getting within 25-18 on Tolson’s 63-yard TD pass to Anthony George. Brandon Sumler intercepted a pass with 1:11 left to give Army one last chance, but Christopher Guzman intercepted Tolson at the goal line with 24 seconds left and Navy ran out the clock.