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MAG-39, Best of the West

By Cpl. Julie A. Paynter | | December 13, 2002

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Best of the West part three separated the winners from the losers Saturday, Dec. 7, after the Marine Aircraft Group 39 football team, representing Camp Pendleton, Calif., defeated Marine Corps Base Hawaii 7-0 in a hard-fought battle at Felix Field here.

Both teams dominated with their defensive skills during the regulation game.  MAG-39 made it five times to the red zone and twice to the 30-yard zone, but was held back from scoring each time.

"Our defense is the reason for our victory in this game," said coach James Shepard, MAG-39.  "Hawaii didn't even cross the 50-yard line with their offense."

Before the first quarter ended each side had fumbled the ball several times. Hawaii attempted a 53-yard field goal, but the kick lacked the necessary steam and fell short, bouncing off the crossbar.

During the second quarter a field goal went wide right for MAG-39 and during the third quarter MAG-39 had a field goal blocked at the 18-yard line.

"On the half-yard line we had third and goal and had a motion penalty for a five-yard penalty that kept us out of the end zone," said Shepard. "We also had two dropped passes for 30-plus yards."

The regulation game ended with a null score and the fight moved into overtime.  An 18-yard sweep to the right by MAG-39's Martin Hagan resulted in a touchdown, field goal and a final score of 7-0.

"Our defense dominated Hawaii and won the ball game with that performance," said Shepard.

"It was a very entertaining game," said Skip Best, sports coordinator, Marine Corps Community Services, Marine Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif.  "We wanted to call it Fumble Bowl, because in the game both teams compiled a total of 15 fumbles, two interceptions and three hikes over the quarterback's head, but it was still a very entertaining game."

Coach Tom Grace, Team Hawaii, is already planning their attack for next year's Best of the West competition.

"They played their hearts out," said Grace.  "Defense played for 60 minutes of football.  Next year we hope to have the Marines cut loose early so all they have to concentrate on is football.  The more time to practice the better."

"MAG-39's defense stepped up and did what they did the whole game and stopped us," said Grace.  "I guarantee the boys will be fired up and ready to play next year."

Camp Pendleton hosts Best of the West next year.  Currently there is not a Best of the East tournament for Marines on the east coast, but plans are in the works to coordinate a Best of the East and a finals competition against the winner of each coastal tournament.

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