As Mids Await Air Force, Lightweights Become The Heavies


October 04, 1991|By Earl P. Schubert

The feature home game for Navy comes up next week with the semiannual visit by their interservice rivals from the Air Force Academy.

The Mids need no spirited pep talk or inspirational dissertation for this one. Pride is on the line -- to say nothing of turning the seasonaround -- when veteran coach Fisher DeBerry brings his Falcons to town. They are tough again this year, but one can throw out predictionswhen these service academies clash.

Its "regroup" and "back to the basics" time for the young, futureadmirals with defense, defense, defense being stressed in the practice sessions.

They have been bottling up the vaunted running attacks by opponents, but one or two big plays per game have killed them. It's frustration for all concerned, and these time-lapsing gaps must be plugged up over a 60-minute ballgame.

Meanwhile, an interesting Eastern Lightweight Football League game will be played tomorrow on Turf Field against the Princeton Tigers at 1 p.m. Don't let the term "lightweight" confuse you. This is a varsity sport at Navy, Army, Princeton, Pennsylvania and Cornell, and is treated as such.

If the average football fan believes this is a game of little guys, forget it.Two days prior to each game, every participant must not weigh more than 158 pounds. But when they take the field it will look like Navy and Princeton of the '40s and '50s era in size.

If local fans enjoyhard-hitting, good quality and exciting wide-open football, this is a game worth seeing tomorrow. The ELFL began in 1934 and is the only one of its kind in the nation.

Playing for the Mids are some former high school stars like co-captain and senior guard Frederick Schenk, an all-conference guard in Wisconsin who still holds a state recordwith a squat of 500 pounds. Also, co-captain defensive back James Weyant, a former all-conference lineman at New Paris, Pa. (Schenk made the All-ELFL first team in 1990).

Other outstanding starters for Navy are senior fullback Chris Anderson, who scored 18 touchdowns for LaPorte High School in Indiana his senior year; sophomore wide receiver Garry Devinger, an All-County selection from Waldorf; Matt Kirby, a sophomore quarterback who made All-City free safety in Atlanta, Ga.; and defensive tackle James Pietila, an All-Conference defensive back in Minocqua, Wis.

They are just a few of the spirited Mids on new coach Gene Baley's squad that hope to carry Navy to their 20th ELFLtitle. They are a bit lighter than the bigger boys but play just as disciplined and tough as their counterparts. By the way, Army comes in on Saturday, Nov. 8, for a 7:30 night game.

As for the upcoming Navy game with traditional rival Air Force next week, it sounds like a bit of defensive hokum to some observers to say that a few big plays have been beating the Mids. But Coach George Chaump and his staff must find a way to stop these plays because a number of big plays are in the Air Force playbook.

These momentary lapses, along with excruciating turnovers, have slammed the door on otherwise good performances and put the Mids out of the game. These are serious problems, especially for a young team, and simply must be terminated before any degree of success is attained.

Yet, for the most part, the defense, for example, against much ballyhooed running attacks has been adequate. But all it takes to lose is to have a defensive breakdown at a critical moment and the party is over.

In fairness to this team that still refuses to give up, some obvious pluses should be recorded.

To add to an already adequate linebacker corps, outside linebacker Mark Ellis, a 200-pound junior from Wakefield, Va., deservedly was named ECAC Division I-A Defensive Player of the Week with an extraordinary 14 tackles against Bowling Green, 12 unassisted.

Plebe wide receiver Tom Pritchard made the ECAC honor roll with six receptions and one touchdown. He was on his way to another that would have locked up the game for Navy when he was blind-sided on the 16-yard line that caused a fumble.

Another encouraging development was the emergence of sophomore backup tailback Billy James as an exciting and slashing runner who was a continuous threat to Bowling Green, averaging 6.4 yards per carry.

Sophomore quarterback Jason Van Matre has had his frustrating moments, but on Saturday he completed 12 of 18 passes for 190 yards, a 67 average. The kicking game greatly improved with seniorTom Frosch averaging 38 yards per punt.

The young Navy squad faces a demanding schedule ahead, beginning next week with a better than average Air Force Academy that buried Weber State, Colorado State, Utah and San Diego State, losing only to Brigham Young.

Earl Schubert, a free-lance writer, is a Baltimore native who lives in Annapolis.A former football coach, he was a secondary school administrator in Missouri and Montgomery County, and worked for 17 years as a senior official in the U.S. Department of Education. His "Navy Blue and Gold"column appears every Friday in The Anne Arundel County Sun.

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