Hawaii trip no vacation for Navy

Midshipmen to battle clock, inspired Rainbow Warriors

November 20, 1999|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

The Naval Academy football team has a three-fold assignment this weekend.

Not only do the Midshipmen have to beat a rejuvenated Hawaii team that has recovered from a winless season to go 7-3 and earn a bowl bid, they have to beat the heat and a five-hour time change.

It is a rigorous task for Navy, which has endured five narrow defeats, won its last two games and is shooting for a .500 record.

This is Navy's first trip to the islands since December 1996, when it rallied to master California, 42-38, in an exciting Aloha Bowl game.

The team left Annapolis on Thursday morning en route to Atlanta, then flew to Honolulu and arrived Thursday evening, Hawaii time. Then came a practice at a local high school.

"We have to get on their clock as soon as we can," said Navy coach Charlie Weatherbie. "You set your schedule according to their times. Hopefully, the players will get a chance to rest on the plane."

Although they will be on the field today at a time when their day is normally winding down -- the game starts at 6 p.m. local time, which is 11 p.m. EST -- Navy's players are not as concerned about the time difference as they are about the hotter temperature and the long wait before game time.

Gino Marchetti, one of two Midshipmen who played in the '96 Aloha Bowl, remembers the weather being "pretty muggy" when the team practiced at 6 a.m. Hawaii time. "But at game time, it wasn't all that bad. It was cooler."

"The main problem is a lot of down time at the hotel before the game," said senior defensive back Gary Lane. "But at least we should be pretty rested."

Sightseeing will be at a minimum, unlike in 1996 when Navy had a week before the game. Weatherbie said the players were to get a little free time Thursday, but are there on a business trip.

"There isn't a whole lot of time to adjust," said place-kicker Tim Shubzda, who kicked off as a freshman in the Aloha Bowl.

"That wasn't a factor by game time three years ago, but now it's a little different. The main problem is it is very warm on that turf over there."

Heat and humidity should be less of a detriment because the game is in the evening, Hawaii time.

Weatherbie is more concerned about the raucous crowd that attends Rainbow Warrior games, which have become popular with the team's turnaround. "They get excited," he said. "It will probably be as loud there as it was at Notre Dame."

Senior slotback Steve Holley said on Navy's earlier trip to Honolulu he "went to the beach, visited Oahu's North Shore and went to Pearl Harbor to see the Arizona [sunk by the Japanese in 1941 and still below the water]. One day we went snorkeling."

"I was a freshman and it was a dream come true to play in that game," said Marchetti. "My family went. I can't think of a better trip that is paid for by the government."

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