Police put firefighters away

• Lawmen capture 27-19 victory in second annual charity flag football game.

By AMBER BOLLMAN Daily News Staff Writer

There were no ESPN camera crews, no celebrities in the crowd and certainly no multimillion-dollar contracts at stake.

But the men and women who took the field at Etheredge Stadium on Saturday afternoon had much more on the line than money or fame.

Each and every player who donned a jersey for the second annual Okaloosa County police-versus-firefighters charity flag football game knew that if they fouled up, they would get teased mercilessly for at least a few weeks.

"Oh yeah, we razz each other," said Okaloosa Island firefighter Shayne Stewart, a star lineman for his squad, which was seeking to redeem itself from a 7-6 loss in last year’s competition.

About 70 firefighters and law enforcement officers from every corner of the county took part in the game, which drew about 550 fans and raised roughly $3,000 for the New York Police and Fire Widow’s and Children’s Benefit Fund.

"It’s a great cause," said Stewart, whom Okaloosa Sheriff Charlie Morris playfully cuffed to keep him off the field. "But we’re still serious about it.

"We’re playing to win."

The game, which ended in a 27-19 victory by the police team, stayed close for the greater part of four quarters.

The squads took turns marching — and sometimes fumbling — up and down the field.

Sheriff ’s Deputy Erick Denny served as quarterback for the law enforcement team, completing several impressive passes — one to Officer Jeff Sullivan for the game’s first score.

Niceville firefighter Chris Kidder also racked up quite a few rushing yards during the game, scrambling through diving defensive backs.

"Well, it didn’t take long to turn into tackle football, did it?" laughed Nicole Wagner, information technology specialist for the Sheriff ’s Office.

Organizers said sunny skies resulted in a strong turnout and expected more money to be raised during a post-game auction at Hog’s Breath Saloon in Destin.

"Really, we wanted to use this event as a chance to not only help the folks who lost their families on 9-11, but also honor our local heroes," said Michael DeAmicis, general manager of 102.1 "The Eagle" and "Mix 103" radio stations.

"We appreciate the work they do every day, and it’s nice to give them the chance to take the center stage."