Mids' Inspirational Finish Bodes Well For Next Season


December 13, 1991|By Earl P. Schubert

Anyone who ever has tied on shoulder pads will testify that the total game effort of the Navy football team last week against archrival Army was something to behold.

The 10-point underdog Mids rose up and flattened the Cadets, 24-3. The score, however convincing, does notreally tell the whole story.

The field intensity, discipline and execution of the game plan demonstrated by this young team that finally found itself will be remembered in years to come as one of the highlights of the Army-Navy tradition.

The game plan designed by Coach George Chaump and his staffhas to be evaluated as brilliant for a one-game exercise. Using the combined expertise of Jim Kubiak and Jason Van Metre, a freshman and a sophomore no less, alternating as quarterback-passer and runner wasnot only a successful gamble, but also a tribute to two intelligent young men. As Chaump knows, this wouldn't work over the long haul butit sure confused the Army defensive plan in this go-for-broke effort.

Equally significant was the spot-check running of Billy James, Brad Stramanak and Duke Ingraham that kept the Cadets off balance, with vicious blocking in front by the interior line manned by Max Lane, Carl Voss, Steve Palmer, Mike Davis and Blair Sokal. Also credit two fine pass-catching ends in freshmen Kevin Hickman and Tom Pritchard, along with flanker and co-captain B. J. Mason.

When the Mids defense successfully adjusted to Army's option running and pitchouts from the wishbone toward the end of the first quarter, the die was cast. Navy was on its way, as the Cadets quarterback fired nine blanks in 14attempts. Five were completed for a meager 57 yards.

New coach Bob Sutton's Cadets never did mount a threatening attack after the early field goal. This was, of course, due to an aroused Mids defense that simply would not fold, particularly in the second half -- a welcomedevelopment, however late in the year.

It was particularly gratifying to seniors Rodney Purifoy and Chris Cordero, who starred in the secondary, and co-captain Byron Ogden at linebacker.

This was truly an outstanding and deserving win for the Mids under pressure.

Their sustained spirit and aggressive attitude through a frustrating season beset with demeaning comments from many directions is an inspirational story in itself, and a tribute to the leadership at the top and the quality of young men on the field. But one game does not make aseason, regardless of the opposition, and everyone knows it.

Whathas been learned in the past three months? Where do they go from here? Is this win enough impetus to carry over into that Sept. 12 game with Virginia at home; followed by Boston College, Rutgers, North Carolina, Air Force, et al.

The 1992 schedule is one of the most attractive in years, with visits to Notre Dame and Rice, and additional home games with Tulane and Vanderbilt. It's tough Delaware again for homecoming, and, of course, Army in Philadelphia.

The list of returning freshmen and sophomore lettermen alone certainly is one that raises high hopes. Not just ordinary freshmen and sophomores, but capableguys who have played important roles in their indoctrination into tough, Division I football.

They have been in high-profile places like South Bend, New Orleans, Charlottesville and Philadelphia and haveheld up well. And they won't be cowered by anyone, or begin a seasonwith a quarterback who has never taken a snap in anger, as was the case this year.

The two roommates, Kubiak and Van Metre, adequatelyfill the play-calling spot with senior Brian Ellis right there, along with even another outstanding youngster by the name of Tony Salliday, a plebe who was all-everything in California.

A flock of underclassmen also will return in the ball-carrying spots. Familiar names like Vinnie Smith, Ingraham, Stramanak and James will be available, with Jimmy Screen and Mike Jefferson at flanker.

Vinnie Smith wasn'teven a regular starter, yet he had the most rushes in one game (28),the most yards rushing in one game (122), the most touchdowns rushing in one game (two), and the longest kickoff return (59 yards).

Probably the most unexpected development this year was the superb performances by the two freshmen offensive ends, Pritchard and Hickman. Pritchard led the team in receptions with 32 for 527 yards and two touchdowns. The tight end Hickman had 12 for 131.

Sophomores Max Lane (6-foot-7, 286 pounds), Sokol (6-7, 263) and Neal Quackenbush (6-3, 248) will return with juniors Greg

Hubbard (6-4, 260) and Steve Palmer (6-1, 262) and could form the nucleus of a big offensive line.

The defense is in even better shape with returnees All-East Bob Kuberski, sophomores Stacey Yopp, David Stowers, Chad Guise, David Shaw, Javier Zuluaga, Steve Lipsey and Mike Riggins, freshmen Grover Flavors and Chris Hart all joining standout juniors Robert Goodson, Mark Ellis and Chad Chatlos in forming a big, fast defensive alignment.

Add to this group an undefeated plebe-junior varsity squad, along withsome outstanding recruits coming in this summer, and Navy possibly could be entering a new winning cycle in 1992. Of course, this could all be daydreaming, but not very likely. There simply is too much talent available this time to expect anything but significant improvement.

In the next go-around, no one will be blowing smoke. It should be exciting.

Earl Schubert, a free-lance writer, is a Baltimore native who lives in Annapolis. The former football coach was a secondaryschool administrator in Missouri and Montgomery County, and worked for 17 years as a senior official in the U.S. Department of Education.

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