Down six points and one yard away from a touchdown, the Infantry tanked in the fourth quarter.
Army held its spring Black/Gold Game away from West Point for the first time at Doughboy Stadium.
Despite threatening skies, more than 5,000 people filled the stadium as the Armor team (black) defeated the Infantry team (gold), 20-14. Though the game was only a scrimmage, splitting the two teams into Armor and Infantry created a rivalry atmosphere as one side of the stadium heard roars from Infantry units, while the other heard cheers from Armor units.
“We were going at each other’s throats and getting after it,” said junior linebacker Colby Miller, a Smiths Station (Ala.) graduate who played for the Armor side. “Playing for the people we represent was a great honor. I just have to understand those are the people I hope to be leading one day.”
Armor place-kicker Eric Osteen, of Augusta, Ga., resident who said his family history in Columbus dates back six generations, had two crucial field goals that proved to be the difference in the game.
Osteen hit his first field goal with 1:04 left in the second quarter and then gave Armor a six-point lead before the end of the third.
Infantry had a chance to score a go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth, but Armor made a goal-line stand, forced a turnover on downs, and ran the clock down under 10 seconds.
Sophomore running backs Larry Dixon and Terry Baggett scored for Infantry.
Dixon caught a 19-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Gino DeBartolo while Baggett took an option pitch 28 yards down the sideline for Infantry’s second score.
Junior running back Raymond Maples had 48 yards off seven carries, and DeBartolo had the longest play from scrimmage, a 44-yard option keeper.
“We played a lot of guys,” head coach Rich Ellerson said. “Everybody played. It’s one of those things when you look at tape, you’ll see how guys handled a fiercely competitive situation. I know we found a couple of guys we didn’t know we had this spring, and I’m sure the tape will validate that.”
One of those guys, Ellerson said, is sophomore Armor wide receiver Chevaughn Lawrence.
“He’s a legitimate big-time threat at wide receiver that can change the outcome of the game,” Ellerson said. “This spring was really big for him, stepping into a position where we really need some help.”
Miller entered the game with a chip on his shoulder after sitting out last season with injuries. Although Miller made a mistake by jumping offsides in a third-and-short situation, he finished with two tackles for a loss.
“(My position coach) said I had a fair game minus the offsides,” Miller said. “He said I was back there doing what I was supposed to do.”
Ellerson said the importance of the scrimmage went beyond the final score.
“The whole day, including the game, was spectacular,” he said. “The guys know some things now about the path they’ve chosen for their lives and some things about the organization they’ve joined and the people they’re going to serve with, which will set them up for success going forward.”
And, of course, the game helped the coaching staff address team needs for the upcoming season. Looking back on the losses to Navy and Air Force in 2011, Ellerson said too many turnovers were the difference in both games.
“I think we’ve made strides this spring,” Ellerson said.
“We have to do a better job taking care of the football on offense and take the ball away on defense. We led the nation in rushing and also led the nation in fumbles.”
After going 3-9 last season, Ellerson said he hopes a more experienced team will get Army back to a bowl game. Army went 7-6 in 2010 and won the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl against Southern Methodist. Maples, Dixon and Baggett all have experience at running back, and quarterback Trent Steelman will return for his fourth year as a starter.
“We have some guys in the senior class who I think will be very productive,” Ellerson said. “We started a lot of freshmen last year. It’s always fun to see how much growth they’ve had in the spring.”’
The game was the first event Doughboy Stadium has hosted since the completion of a series of renovations that began in November. The stadium received a new coat of white paint and a displayed a new scoreboard.
“It was everything we hoped for and more,” said Ken Wetherill, director of Fort Benning Sports, Fitness and Aquatics. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Doughboy football is one thing, but West Point football is a whole new spectrum of what we’ve been able to do here.”