Police Thump Firefighters in Football Game

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Firefighters say a member of the "Enforcers" speared their quarterback when he was down.

    The cops beat the firemen 21-14 in the first-ever Chicago Police vs. Chicago Fire Department football showdown Saturday.

    But the game at Brother Rice High School on the Southwest Side was close.

    The "Blaze" - the Fire Department's brand new football team, led the game through halftime, thanks in part to the skills of quarterback John Welsh.

    Welsh, who played briefly for the New York Giants, is just a few months out of the fire academy, working at Engine Co. 15 in Chicago's Ashburn community.

    "We knew we had to find a way to get their quarterback off the field because he was a real athlete, so we made 'em work real hard" said Greg Zaragoza, head coach of the Chicago Enforcers.

    For the most part, it was all goodwill and handshakes between old friends on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.

    "This a great rivalry," Acting Fire Commissioner Robert Hoff said as he watched the game. "It's done a lot for camaraderie."

    But this was a football game, and there were plenty of tough plays.

    Firefighters said an enforcer "speared Welsh after he was down" in the third quarter, but the cops said he simply "gave him a good, hard hit." The play resulted in a penalty. The player apologized to Welsh after the game.

    "Heat of the moment," Welsh said.

    With less than a minute to go in the fourth quarter, Ray Boyd, 29, who works on the Homan Square-based citywide gang enforcement unit, scored the winning touchdown for the Enforcers.

    "The foot chases I get into (on the job) kind of prepared me for a game like this," he said.

    As some players labored across the field a bit slower than college players, one man in an Enforcers T-shirt said to another, "That's how out of shape the team is."

    Officer Densey Cole watched from the sidelines in his wheelchair after being saluted by his fellow officers. A former Brother Rice student, Cole suffered a debilitating accident racing to a crime scene in his squad car last year.

    He has recovered some movement in all his limbs.

    This is the fifth year the Enforcers have played but the first for the Blaze.

    The trophy, featuring a night stick and a firefighter's axe, went to the police this year, but the firefighters have a chance to steal it back next year.