By Randy Dela Cruz, Ho'okele Sports Editor
With nowhere to run, quarterback Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class Jeff Dolan connected with Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class Tahj Pinson-Walker for the game-winning touchdown and led USS Cheyenne (SSN 773) to a 7-0 victory over USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60) Destroyers. The Afloat Division intramural flag football contest was played Nov. 30 at Ward Field, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
The win all but clinched a playoff spot for Cheyenne, which entered the game positioned one game above the Destroyers with a record of 6-2.
Meanwhile, after the loss the Destroyers dropped to 6-4 and may have fallen out of the post-season. The postseason is scheduled to start this weekend from Dec. 7-8 with the championship game being played on Dec. 9.
This season, the top four teams from each division will earn a place in the playoffs.
In the crucial showdown between Paul Hamilton and Cheyenne, Dolan started the game-winning drive on his own five-yard line after the Cheyenne defense came up with a huge red zone stop early in the second half.
Dolan maneuvered Cheyenne just outside of the Destroyers’ 20-yard line on only four plays after Paul Hamilton’s defense got off to a bad start with back-to-back penalties. After misfiring on a pass, Dolan led a sweep to the right sideline, but the Destroyers’ defense collapsed on the QB.
Needing to improvise, Dolan lobbed a short pass to Pinson-Walker, who made the catch, eluded a defensive back, cut back to middle, and was gone for the only score of the game.
Cheyenne converted the point after touchdown to take a 7-0 lead before holding on for the win.
“To be honest, the quarterback (Dolan) was supposed to run it on that play,” Pinson-Walker admitted. “Then he saw me open and with the IQ he has for football, he decided to give it up.”
Dolan said that with the team struggling to get on the scoreboard, he knew that he had to find a way to get the ball to Pinson-Walker.
“If it’s a big play, we usually go to Tahj because I know he can go deep and get the best chance of getting it,” Dolan said. “That took a lot off the team to get that score in because we knew our defense could hold them.”
In fact, the team’s defense dominated the Destroyers throughout the game – especially in the first half when Cheyenne held Paul Hamilton to only five offensive plays.
The Cheyenne defense also forced a turnover when Pinson-Walker came up with an interception just before halftime.
“I think every week, we contribute our win to our defense,” Pinson-Walker said. “We know that we are defensively solid.”
Dolan noted that the team’s slow start on offense could be attributed to a shortage of players.
However, if the team comes back in full strength, Cheyenne could go very far in the playoffs.
A title for Cheyenne would represent a first for a submarine command at JBPHH.
“If we get everyone here, be disciplined and don’t make mental errors, we know what we can do,” Dolan said.
Pinson-Walker agreed with his QB and said Cheyenne could very well go all the way.
“I’d say that we’re capable of winning it all,” he said. “If we keep our heads straight, keep penalties down, we can beat anybody.”