On a calm and cool day, 10 men step onto the field, calm and cool on the outside, a little nervous on the inside. It’s late in the day, they are dirty and tired but if they can win just one more game they will go home champions. The team does not play for money or fame; they play for glory and honor.
The 10 men are all assigned to Coast Guard Station Lorain, Ohio, and they have put away their military uniforms to assert their dominance as the best Coast Guard flag football team in the Great Lakes region.
On Sept. 28, 2012, the 9th Coast Guard District held its annual flag football tournament in Chesterfield, Mich. The tournament is held every year at the end of the busy search-and-rescue season to boost morale and give members a chance to reconnect with other at surrounding units.
The men from Station Lorain defeated teams from Coast Guard Station Saginaw River, in Essexville, Mich., Station Belle Isle, in Detroit, and Air Station Detroit to get to the playoff round. There, they defeated men from the Coast Guard Cutter Hollyhock homeported in Port Huron, Mich., to play Air Station Detroit again in the championship game.
“We were hurting, cramping up and exhausted, having already won five games that day,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Sean Vitou, the operations petty officer at Station Lorain, and offensive and defensive lineman during the football tournament.
“We have a really good team this year, lots of raw talent and speed.”
The team from Station Lorain had already beaten the team from Air Station Detroit in a previous game that day, but with both teams tired, it could have been anyone’s win.
“If I could sum up the men on my team with one word, it would be determination,” said Vitou.
“As tired and beat up as we were, the whole team was willing to play through the pain.”
With a whole year of bragging rights and a trophy in the balance, the men of Station Lorain stepped onto the field one last time to try and bring it home. As the crowds of family, friends and members of eliminated teams cheered on for four quarters, the game was finally over with a score of 34 to 28.
The 10 men of Coast Guard Station Lorain had triumphed. They went to the tournament as a group of men and came back as a team.
“This tournament showcases the camaraderie and esprit de corps demonstrated throughout the ranks and across Great Lakes Coast Guard units,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Ayriss, a boarding team member at Station Lorain and lineman for the football team.
Though the members of Station Lorain will hold the title of champions for 12 months, with the movement of players during transfer season, new rookie nonrates, free agents and the injured reserve list, the title can go to anyone.
“This was an occasion to prepare for and rise to a physical, mental and emotional challenge,” said Chief Petty Officer Andrew Coppa, officer-in-charge of Station Lorain.
“We must keep our people physically fit so they have the stamina, alertness and temperament to carry out the Coast Guard’s many missions.”