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Minutemen intercept Flying Tigers for 17-14 win

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The 392nd Training Squadron wins the Vandenberg 2008 Intramural Football Championship. ( U.S Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Antoinette Lyons)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The 392nd Training Squadron wins the Vandenberg 2008 Intramural Football Championship. ( U.S Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Antoinette Lyons)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The 392nd Training Squadron Minutemen overcame the cold weather, wet grass and a very balanced 14th Air Force offense to win Vandenberg's 2008 Intramural Football Championship 17-14 Thursday night at the base football field. 

The game, which was described as the "Dew Bowl" because of the precipitation on the field, started with a Minutemen eight-play drive down the field. Behind quarterback Mike Ryan's precision passing and quick feet, the 392nd scored the game's first and easiest touchdown of the night. 

The Flying Tigers, who worked their way out of the loser's bracket by winning two games earlier in the evening, took the field and let the fans and Minutemen know that this game was not going to be a blowout. 

Quarterback Desi Bryant demonstrated excellent decision making by completing a series of medium passes to end up on the Minutemen 25-yard line. A double-pass from the hands of Bryant to tight end Colby Davis and, finally, to wide receiver Curtis Chatman landed 14th AF in the end zone and a tie game at 7 - 7. 

The first half ended with many missed opportunities by both teams. Bryant and Davis both grabbed an interception; however, the Flying Tigers failed to put points on the board by missing a field goal on each of their last two possessions, failed chances that came back to haunt them in the second half. 

With the score tied, the story of the first half was the interceptions thrown by Ryan. Prior to Thursday night he hasn't completed a pass to the opposing team in any of the previous playoff games. 

"They are quick and fast," Ryan said. "We have to go back to what has been working all year - short, quick passes and march the ball downfield." 

After linebacker Nick Carmovale's pep-talk, which could have convinced Dustin Diamond to enter the Octagon with Chuck Liddell, the Minutemen defense took the field.
Three straight incomplete passes forced the 14th AF to punt to Carmovale, who surprised the Flying Tigers with a forward pass to Jacob Burtschi for a 30-yard return (in flag football players are allowed to make one forward pass upon receiving the punt). 

Ryan and the Minutemen took advantage of the long return by completing a 22-yard pass to Carmovale. The drive was capped off by a 10-yard touchdown run by Ryan for his second rushing score of the game. The Minutemen were ahead 14-7. 

Possibly channeling Winston Churchill's "Never give up, never surrender" attitude the Flying Tigers, again behind the arm of Bryant, orchestrated a nine-play drive that ended in a 7-yard touchdown pass. After making the extra point the Flying Tigers knotted the game at 14-14. 

With six minutes left on the game clock, the Minutemen began their last drive of the game. Completing passes to three different receivers - Michael Bradford, Burtschi and team captain Mike May - Ryan showed poise until he was bulldozed after leaving the pocket to pick up a few extra yards. The drive, which started with promise for the Minutemen, stalled on the 23-yard line. Now with little more than a minute left on the clock, the Minutemen's chances to take the lead rested on the legs of field goal kicker Lon Schmidt. Schmidt's golden foot not only put the ball through the posts, but would have been good for another ten yards. The Minutemen held the lead at 17-14. 

An interception on the first play of the Flying Tigers last-chance drive ended their hopes of victory and crowned the 392nd TRS as champions. 

It was a great tournament, said May. The bracket was setup very well, and we played a very good opponent to win this thing.