News: Bandits gang up for tackle football season
Story by Christine Cabalo
MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII - Marine Aircraft Group 24’s Bandits are gearing up to steal the season from the competition as the intramural tackle football league games begin Oct.1, 2013.
The Bandits and the four other teams in this year’s league are stepping up their moves in practice to prepare for the games ahead. Last season the Bandits made it to the championships but lost the final game by nine points to 1st Battalion, 12 Marine Regiment. The team is focused on conditioning in the remaining pre-season days, taking their fitness from their active-duty lives and channeling it toward the gridiron.
“Football makes us move differently than the physical work we do on a day-to-day basis,” said William Stengele of Allentown, Penn., the team’s offensive coach. “We’re waking up different muscles, getting a couple of plays in practice.”
Working with their coaches, the Bandits practice through drills and mini-games. The players move around agility ladders and face off in box and tackling drills to put their bodies on alert for football. Coaches work to make the most of their pre-season time, practicing well after sunset.
“We’re putting them through scenarios where they’re off their feet but still need to maintain their balance,” Stengele said. “We do similar training in the military, but this is a little bit different way of moving. This is to push players to continue down field to score.”
The field of battle they travel down will be different this season, and all the teams will need to adjust to playing at Riseley Field. Pop Warner Field, one of the main areas for football at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, is still under renovations. With the new venue, teams won’t need to travel as far as Camp H.M. Smith to play for this season, said Joe Au, Marine Corps Base Hawaii’s intramural sports coordinator. The space will be set up to accommodate the same setup at Pop Warner Field, an 80-yard area for nine-player teams.
“We’re setting the bleachers back and making sure no one wanders into the sidelines,” Au said. “This will be a challenge to set up the clock and scoreboard.”
The league games will feature small teams, but the Bandits still have a obstacles to face. Both this and last year the team had just enough players to be competitive, but few spare players. Some will play both offense and defense during the season, said Jesse Anderson, of Omaha, Neb. and the Bandits’ safety.
Stengele and Anderson said what has worked in their team’s favor is that many of the new players come into the league with a lot of experience. Some played in college, high school or in off-base leagues. The two said other units might have deeper benches than the Bandits, but their team makes up for it because they are a tight-knit group that works to get the job done.
“We’re trying to keep vigilant to see which players can go in the right spot,” Anderson said. “Our offensive line is molded around who we have. It’s really about how we can plug and play each position. We have a lot of good players.”
Anderson said although the game can be physically demanding and high-stress, every person on his team loves the sport. The Bandits safety said their camaraderie will be one of their best assets going into the season.
“We’re short on people, but big on heart,” Anderson said. “We give it all we have regardless how much of time is on the clock. We take the hits, but keep on going. That was a big factor in winning a lot of the games last year.”
Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay and 3rd Marine Regiment are scheduled for the first season game. But the Bandits will be tackling their way through the competition and trying to grab victory Nov. 5, 2013, when the playoff games for the league are set to start.