Soldiers assigned to the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team brought service football back to Doughboy Stadium Oct. 28 with a 29-13 victory over Columbus State University club team.
The inaugural Doughboy Classic pitted active-duty Soldiers against college club players for the first time since the early 1970s said Richard Hyatt, a Columbus author and journalist.
“We really hope we have planted a seed with this game,” said John Hargrove, owner of the Columbus Lions and one of the game’s chief organizers. “It is a beautiful night for football and to bring three cross-sections of this community, the military, Columbus State University and the Columbus community, together for an event is a great thing.”
An estimated crowd of more than 6,000 watched as the Sledgehammer team took the early lead in a matchup that featured multiple turnovers and big hits from both sides.
“It was a sloppy game,” said Jason Gibson, head coach of the Columbus Lions and the Sledgehammer team. “Turnovers kill you, but it did make it a more interesting game. In a way, it was good that it happened because everyone stayed until the end and had a good time. As coach, turnovers still drive you nuts.”
Despite losing, the Columbus State players drew praise from 3rd HBCT Soldiers.“Columbus State had a lot of heart,” said Salvatore Alberico, a paralegal assigned to the 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment. “It looked like we had twice their number in the pre-game ceremonies and they hung in there the entire game.”
Sledgehammer was initially put back on their heels when the Cougars recovered an onside kick on the opening kickoff, but Sledgehammer players eventually settled into their game plan and stayed patient.
“Coach Gibson has preached patience and discipline ever since we started practice five weeks ago,” said Hung Thanh Wagner, a left tackle assigned to Headquarters Company, Brigade Special Troops Battalion. “We just stuck with our game plan and remained disciplined. It paid off for us.”
After three quarters, the Sledgehammer entered the final quarter clinging to a three-point lead. Beginning at their own 28-yard line, starting quarterback, Tim Smith, an officer assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, moved the Sledgehammer team down the field to the Cougars 8-yard line where he handed off to Emmanuel Batson from C Company 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor for the touchdown.
Another touchdown run by Shamon Poole, a noncommissioned officer assigned to F Company, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, on the following series put the game out of reach for the Cougars and clinched the Sledgehammer 29-13 win.
“It was a great win,” said Gibson. “This was one of the most rewarding experiences of my coaching career. I’m not going to lie. I’m going to have a hole in my heart next week when I can’t drive onto Fort Benning and coach those guys. This whole experience, from meeting the guys, to playing in Doughboy Stadium, to picking up the win, has been something I’ll never forget.”