Leatherheads take over president’s lawn

Walton Rittenberry advances toward the goal while dodging a U.S. Marine team player.  Photo by Britney Beaty.

Tennessee State Parks personnel and former and current Tech students took the field on Walton House’s lawn on Nov. 4 to compete in a vintage football game between the U.S. Army and the U.S. Marine Corps to commemorate the centennial of World War I. 

The event, organized by the Tennessee Great War Commission in conjunction with Tennessee State Parks personnel, provided a football game played with a mixture of football rules from 1920 and modern flag football rules.

The size of the football used in the game is larger and more difficult to throw than a modern football and is closer to the size of a rugby ball, said Simon Herrera, who played in the game and who also helped organize the event.

“What surprised me most was the strategies of the game and how it is played compared to American football today. The ball is a lot bigger than the ball today so running is incredibly effective if you get it right,” Tech student Walton Rittenberry said.

This difference in football size might seem like a minor change, but it changes the dynamics of the team and the strategies used, Herrera said.

“If you don't call good plays and block as needed you lose yards. With the ball being hard to throw you can't make up for bad execution. The team forced to throw the ball is generally going to lose. Kicking was also a big part of the game,” Herrera said. 

The game on Walton House lawn lasted around three hours and ended with the Army team winning the game by 9 – 6.

The U.S. Army and the U.S. Marine Corps tied 1 – 1 after two games on Alvin C. York Park on Nov. 13, 2016, and Nov.12, 2017. The game on Nov. 4 acted as the championship and cemented the U.S. Army team as the ultimate winner.