By Ed Benkin
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – It remains one of the most unique rivalries in sports.
The annual Army-Navy football game will take place at Lincoln Financial Field on December 14th. For the players as well as the coaches, there is a clear understanding of the importance of the moment when they take the field against their rivals. Navy Coach Ken Niumatalolo admits his players are thinking about this game before the season gets underway.
“It’s everything,” says Niumatalolo. “Everything we do in the off-season points to this game. You play eleven other games but in the back of your mind, this game is always there.”
Navy has won eleven in a row against Army, but narrowly escaped with a 17-13 victory last season. Black Knights Coach Rich Ellerson is hoping his team will end Navy’s recent dominance, but also has great respect for the game and it’s players.
“It’s a moment in the world of college football where everybody can reflect on who these young men and women are,” Ellerson said. “There’s that fundamental respect the institutions have for one another. While we’re fierce rivals, we also share some commonalities. One of those is a passion for the game.”
While both sides point to this game as the one that makes or breaks their seasons, players such as Army Linebacker Thomas Halloway understand the purity of the rivalry.
“The rivalry is strong and it’s old,” said Halloway. “It’s not one where people break out in a fight against each other because it means so much more than the game of football itself. We respect Navy and we respect what they do.”
One of the biggest challenges for the players will be to keep their emotions in check during the pregame festivities. Navy Linebacker Cody Peterson says the upperclassmen will do their best to keep the rest of the players focused as kickoff approaches, but admits the butterflies are hard to contain.
“The feeling doesn’t really change,” Peterson said. “Every time you come back here, it’s the same thing. You get the nerves back and you just feel that pride in your team and in your country. That feeling never changes.”
The game will be played in Baltimore next year. It will return to Philadelphia in 2015.