With Air Force up next, Mids' practices off-limits


October 03, 2001|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

If the Naval Academy's football practices are closed this week, an intraservice game must be approaching.

"It's time to focus in without any distractions," said Navy coach Charlie Weatherbie. "We closed practices to concentrate on the task."

The task is the Air Force, a team that has won four straight and 17 of the past 19 games in a lopsided series with the Midshipmen, who enter the game after two weeks off.

Security at the Naval Academy has been relaxed in recent days, so the secrecy at practice is strictly for football reasons.

"Some of the coaches are taking out security measures," said slot back Gene Reese, who returns to the field this weekend after missing the Boston College game with a hamstring pull.

"I don't know if they're paranoid or just careful. Air Force's game is very similar to ours, so maybe we're going to try to throw some wrinkles at them."

The Air Force Academy has been operating under heightened security since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. No visitors are allowed and media members are allowed only with an escort.

At Navy, visitors must show a picture identification and face possible searches, but normalcy has almost returned.

"Pretty much everything is back to normal," Reese said. "We still have more security measures. But now it's important to get back to football."

Right at home

Navy's players like the idea of playing the Falcons at FedEx Field, the home of the Washington Redskins.

In their only other encounter there two years ago, Air Force managed a 19-14 victory when two Midshipmen couldn't hold onto what were certain touchdown passes, the final drop coming on the game's final play.

"It's our backyard and a lot of our fans are going to be there," said fullback Bryce McDonald. "There's not much difference. It's just a little louder. I just want to win wherever we play."`This is definitely a home game," Reese said. "We've played there and I'm sure we'll have more fans. It's just a lot bigger stadium."

Navy is 0-3 after a 38-21 loss to Boston College two weeks ago, but was an improved team with Brian Madden back at quarterback after a two-game suspension.

Madden has never played any significant time against Air Force.

Et cetera

Tickets for the noon game will be available up to the opening kickoff. Fans are again encouraged to arrive early because of increased gate security. Parking lots open at 9 a.m., the gates at 10. ... Air Force went west to play San Diego State in a night game last weekend, arriving back in Colorado Springs at 5 a.m. (MDT). Now they come east for a game that will start at 10 a.m. (MDT). "We'll just have to go to bed early Friday," said Falcons coach Fisher DeBerry.

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