By Scott Prater
As a veteran flag football player, Rob Weinmann has anchored the 3rd Space Operations Squadron defense for the past few seasons. But even he can’t remember a 3 SOPS defense that has dominated opponents so convincingly as the current lineup.
With its 13-0 Schriever Intramural Flag Football win against 2 SOPS Sept. 8, 3 SOPS not only kept its undefeated run intact, it kept its third straight opponent off the scoreboard.
“Defensively, this is the second year we’ve had our main group together,” team captain Alex Mancero said. “I think we were pretty good last year, but this says something when you can shut teams out.”
Dustin Withey recorded four quarterback sacks and forced 2 SOPS’ signal caller Carson Cleveland into several more hurries.
“We don’t dance or juke around,” Withey said. “We’re just real physical and try to get after the quarterback.”
In a lackluster first half, both teams struggled to gain any type of offensive rhythm. Cleveland managed to scramble for a couple of first downs, but had little success through the air. Meanwhile, Mancero threw an interception on 3 SOPS’ first possession and was forced to punt on the team’s next two.
After six possessions and 20 minutes of play, the teams entered halftime deadlocked at zero.
Once again, 3 SOPS counted on its defense to make something happen.
Weinman intercepted a Cleveland pass deep inside 2 SOPS territory and Mancero waisted little time capitalizing on the turnover. On the very next play, he took the snap, rolled to his left and hit Brandan Ward in the back corner of the end zone for the game’s first score.
“Our defense gave us a short field and we made some adjustments to pass routes at halftime so we were able to take advantage,” Mancero said. “I just told Ward to line up in the slot and run to the pylon, he did and I found him in the corner. He has a big catching radius so it worked out pretty well there.”
Cleveland adjusted to the 3 SOPS pass rush following the break, but he didn’t get any help from his receivers. He managed to buy some time by stepping up in the pocket, but watched several long passes slip through his receivers’ fingers and fall harmlessly to the turf.
Following another defensive stop, 3 SOPS scored again when Mancero found Harold Wilson on a deep pass down the middle. Wilson spun out of a tackle and rambled into the end zone to put 3 SOPS up 13-0 with six minutes to play.
From there, 3 SOPS team co-captains inserted Andrew Salazar in as a pass rusher to complement Withey.
“He’s our fastest guy,” Weinmann said. “We noticed the only way they could hurt us was when Cleveland scrambled around so we spied him and then collapsed on him when he tried to run.”
With the victory, 3 SOPS (3-0) maintained a share of the league lead along with National Reconnaissance Office Operations Squadron.
“It was just our pass rush,” Weinmann said. “Our corners and safeties did a phenomenal job in coverage. Brandon Levesque had to cover their top receivers and he had four or five tackles and four or five knockdowns. They were going at him the entire game and he shut them down.”
The loss dropped 2 SOPS (2-1) into a three-way tie for second place with three games to play in the regular season.
“Their defense played well and this was just our turn to lose,” 2 SOPS team captain Benjamin Paxson said. “We’re going to learn from this and hopefully it will be our last loss.”