Pound For Pound, Lightweight Football Packs A Punch


October 19, 1990|By Earl P. Schubert

Navy's varsity football team is savoring last week's crucial win over Division I-A Akron and enjoying an open date before the homecoming clash with James Madison next Saturday.

But exciting lightweight football is scheduled at 4 p.m. today on Turf Field with the Princeton Tigers providing the opposition.

It's the third league game for unbeaten Navy in the 150-pound Eastern Lightweight League, and gridiron lovers should pay a visit to this one if they like good, well-coached, tough football.

These Mids go at it just as aggressively as their bigger brethren. It's just a smaller package. The visitors are the 1989 defending league champion and the Middies' chief obstacle at the moment in their hopes for this year's title.

Head coach Chuck Mulligan's charges include 15 lettermen from last year's team, co-captained by wide receiver George Dyer, a 1989 All-Eastern Lightweight League second-team selection from Redmond, Wash., and linebacker Brent Goodrum from Wilton, Iowa.

Dyer patterns himself after the great Seattle Seahawk Steve Largent, the NFL's all-time leading pass receiver. Dyer's father is a defensive line coach for Seattle, and Dyer was the ball boy for the club for three years during his younger days.

The real worth of lightweight football was expressed by Dyer. "It gives so many of us a chance to continue our interest in playing football, and in addition, it is an extremely good outlet for us while pursuing the tough academic schedule," he said. "It's a big part of our fall season, and we look forward to returning to school after the summer months."

Dyer, who has established a 3.56 grade-point average in the strenuous mechanical engineering program, plans to enter the submarine service. He is typical of the members of this enthusiastic ballclub.

In assessing today's game with Princeton, he believes the Tigers are a good team bent on revenge from the earlier defeat by Navy at Princeton. He said, "The defense has been the backbone of our success to date, keeping us in the game. But with quarterback Keith Salisbury throwing to six or seven good receivers, we ought to make it a great game."

The Eastern Lightweight Football League began in 1934 with the following statement: "Football is a bodily contact sport in which weight is necessarily a significant factor . . . efforts then to encourage participation among smaller and lighter men through weight classification would appear to be entirely justifiable."

The concept was a carryover from the sport of rowing in which weight is used to distinguish between lightweight and heavyweight crews. However, don't let the weight difference fool you for a moment. This is great football played in the purest context of the student-athlete.

The seven original members of the league were Cornell, Lafayette, Penn, Princeton, Rutgers, Villanova and Yale. Navy joined in 1946 after the war, and Army became a member in 1957. Yale, Lafayette, Villanova and, recently, Rutgers since have dropped out primarily for budgetary reasons, but the remaining five ballclubs, including late-entry Princeton, have a tough competitive shoot-out each week. By the way, don't miss the Army game at Navy on Friday, Nov. 2, starting at 4 p.m.

Lightweight football is a varsity sport at each school with the Mids being a perennial power over the years, winning the title 19 times and sharing it on five occasions. The only two losing seasons were in 1962 and last year, both with 2-4 records.

It's not exactly a 150-pound weight limit league. Two days prior to each game, every players must weigh in at 158 pounds or less, so one can envision a few 160-plus pounders by game time, but not by much.

Identical equipment is used as the big boys, eight coaches assist Coach Mulligan, and the extraordinary interest in the program is exemplified by a team roster that also matches the big varsity.

With 10 returning defensive lettermen, led by seniors Brent Goodrum, John Pereira and Ronald Mobayed, and junior Glenn Takabayashi, this could be one of Navy's finest defenses in years.

The offense is another matter, and is in a rebuilding stage. Dyer is set at wide receiver, but quarterback Salisbury and senior running backs Gerald Graham and John Suazo operate behind a young offensive line. Particularly missing from last year are guard Chuck Vickers, a second-team All-Leaguer, and wide receiver Tim Chain, who was an All-League honorable mention.

Coach Mulligan said, "We're ready to live up to our winning tradition, and there's a lot of excitement surrounding the program this fall."

Indeed there is and as one observes the practice areas near the seawall on the academy campus, there is very little difference, if any, in the intensity and the spirit of the Mids at all levels.

Football for these young midshipmen is a great release from the rigors of the classroom and the regimented setting. It's considered an important part of their total educational development.

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