Minutes before Tuesday nights Longest Yard Football Classic, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) declined to predict a final score. It will be ... decisive, was as far as Pelosi would go.
That prediction proved correct, but it took overtime, a game-saving interception by Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) and a scrambling heave by Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) before the Members of Congress could finally declare victory over the Capitol Police officers in the flag football contest.
The Mean Machine, made up of Members of Congress and former professional football players, beat the police Guards team 32-26. It was the first victory for the Members squad in the four times the game has been played to help raise money for charity.
Shulers game-winning toss went to his favorite target of the night, former Philadelphia Eagles defensive back John Booty, whom Shuler connected with for two touchdowns. The pass also helped erase the sting of Shulers final throw in regulation, which was intercepted by Capitol Police Officer Larry Bell and gave the Capitol Police squad one last possession in the final two minutes of the game.
But overall, Shuler had a very productive night and showed flashes of his former career as a National Football League quarterback. He earned the Most Valuable Player trophy Tuesday night after throwing five touchdowns and completing 29 of 42 passes.
Shuler started slow, waiting until the final minute of the first half to toss his first touchdown. He was only 8 for 14 at halftime but broke out for 21 completions on 28 passes in the second half.
Weiners two-interception performance aside, the game was an offensive shootout with the two squads combining for nine touchdowns.
Mean Machine coach Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) made plenty of decisions in Tuesday nights shootout, but his best decision probably came well before the game, when he recruited his Capitol Hill legislative director Steve Martinko, a former college tight end at Brown University, to come out for the Mean Machine. Martinko was responsible for a pair of touchdowns.
The Capitol Police used a multi-quarterback rotation that featured Officers Ron Potter, Mark Herbert and Jim Davis. Officer Frank Quick was key receiver for two of those touchdowns. On defense, Capitol Police Chief Phillip Morse earned some playing time early before younger legs took over later in the game.
The Longest Yard began in 2005 as a way to raise money for the Capitol Police Memorial Fund, which benefits the families of Officers Jacob Chestnut, John Gibson and Christopher Eney. Chestnut and Gibson were killed by a gunman who shot his way into the Capitol in 1998; Eney was killed in a training accident in 1984.
In 2007, the Longest Yard Football Classic became a biennial game, and now it has also expanded its purpose this year some of the money raised will go to the Washington Literacy Council.