Navy faces Air Force with eyes on prize

Mids chase elusive trophy they haven't held since '81

College Football

October 05, 2001|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

For Navy, it is as elusive as it is coveted.

Twenty years have passed since the Midshipmen have claimed the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy, emblematic of football supremacy among the three major service academies.

And, as usual, they must go through Air Force to get it back, this time making the effort tomorrow at FedEx Field.

A victory over the Falcons is almost mandatory these days to capture a 2 1/2 -foot high trophy engraved with the three academy seals and the three mascots of the participating schools.

For Air Force, the trophy is the highest priority in its season, a goal the Falcons have achieved every year except one (1996, Army) since 1989.

"The trophy is a lot more important for us than winning our conference," said Fisher DeBerry, Air Force's veteran coach. "This is the number one goal for our program. That has never changed."

Navy had its best chance to regain the prize five years ago after upsetting the Falcons, 20-17, at Colorado Springs, but then lost a 28-24 heartbreaker to Army before winding up in the Aloha Bowl.

"This can be the game that can be the turning point in our season," said Navy coach Charlie Weatherbie. "It's a great opportunity."

"They've got something we want, possession of it," added Navy slotback Gene Reese.

The trophy remains with the winner of the previous year's competition. Therefore, it has almost a permanent home in Colorado.

Air Force is 39-19 all-time against Navy and Army and has won eight straight since losing, 23-7, at Army in November 1996. In those eight, the Falcons defense has surrendered just 75 points, an average of 9.4 per game.

"They do put a lot of emphasis on the CIC," said Weatherbie, who was an assistant coach at Air Force for six seasons. "After they sing their alma mater, they don't say, `Beat Army,' they say, `Beat everyone.'

"They look at Army and Navy as having this big rivalry going, and they're trying to make inroads on it. It's kind of a grudge thing for Air Force."

Next for Navy

Opponent: Air Force (2-1)

Site: FedEx Field, Landover

When: Tomorrow, noon

Radio: WNAV (1430 AM), WJFK (1300 AM), WMAL (630 AM)

Line: Air Force by 15

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