Midshipmen Sink Cadets in 107th Army-Navy Game

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 3, 2006 - As the sun sank below Philadelphia's skyline yesterday, gold helmets shone under the Lincoln Financial Field lights while the Naval Academy Midshipmen ground out a 26-14 win over the Black Knights of the Military Academy in the 107th Army-Navy football game.

The Midshipmen's hard-fought victory yesterday before a crowd of 68,000 - including thousands of current and graduated midshipmen, cadets, and their families -- puts Navy ahead of Army 51-49-7 in the overall series record and extends the Midshipmen's winning streak to four years.

Coming into the game, the well-calibrated Navy team had committed the fifth-fewest penalties of NCAA Division I teams this season, and oddsmakers expected the Midshipmen to beat the Black Knights by almost three touchdowns. But the firmly-rooted attitude shared by both sides is that the season begins and ends with the Army-Navy Game.

"It's the biggest game of the year," Frank DeMaro, a spokesman for the Military Academy, told American Forces Press Service. "It's our bowl game."

As fans filed into the stands before kickoff, thousands of cadets and midshipmen marched across the field in perfect matrices and jet engines roared over spectators' heads leaving mouths agape, as the percussion sections of the academy marching bands banged the cadence.

First played in 1890, this historic meeting continued through four wars, and is distinct from other college rivalries. Height and weight restraints on the academies' incoming class member, including athletic recruits, make their football lineups look leaner and shorter than those of non-service schools. And because military training is required at Annapolis and West Point, the academies are rare examples of schools that boast cheerleaders trained in both pom-pom technique and hand-to-hand combat.

The Army-Navy game's camaraderie resonates across the globe, from alumni reuniting at tailgate parties in the stadium parking lot before kickoff to deployed forces overseas huddled around televisions with satellite feeds.

The vital role Army and Navy servicemembers play away from the football field and bleachers was emphasized in the invocation presented by Navy chaplain Lt. Cmdr. Richard Bonnet before the game.

"In many ways this game is brother against brother," said Bonnet, "but when this day is over, our athletes will stand side by side on the field and our seniors will prepare to take their place alongside those who protect our precious freedoms around the world."

For Phil Panzarella, a 1979 West Point graduate in Philadelphia for the game, the Army-Navy rivalry is a rare instance in sports that encourages cohesion between opponents. "This is one of the few college games where each team stands at attention for the others' alma mater," Panzarella said. "At the end of the game, it's about patriotism and defending our country and working as one team."

Navy's win guaranteed the 9-3 Midshipmen a post-season bowl game bid and secures their fourth straight Commander in Chief's Trophy, awarded annually for the most successful year in athletic competition among the nation's service academies. The seniors on Navy's football team are the first in the school's history to go 8-0 in matchups against their Army and Air Force counterparts.

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