By Brandon O'Connor, Pointer View Assistant EditorDecember 9, 2018
PHILADELPHIA -- On paper, the Army-Navy Game is simply a football game. But for the players involved, the academies they represent and Soldiers and Sailors throughout the world, the 119th edition of the storied rivalry player Saturday is much more than a football game.
Two years after exorcising their demons by snapping a 14-year losing streak and a year after claiming the Commander-in-Chief's trophy for the first time since 1996 by defeating Navy, the Army West Point Football team battled its way to a 17-10 victory over the Midshipmen stretching its winning streak to three.
With the win, the Black Knights won the CIC trophy in back-to-back years for the first time in school history and secured only the third 10 win season in program history.
"Two years ago in 2016 when we won the game and broke the streak, I don't know if there's ever been a feeling in a victory like that. Then last year's was getting the Commander-in-Chief's trophy back. So, that was again just this huge accomplishment for our team," head coach Jeff Monken said. "I think this is the hardest game to win…You've got two very evenly matched teams that play the game as hard and as tough as anybody plays it. There is a desperate effort on every play by both teams. It is hard to describe. It is just different."
Saturday's battle between Army and Navy on the gridiron marked the conclusion of a week filled with spirit activities and competitions between the two service academies. The weekend before the game, Army and Navy battled in club sports as cadet teams made their way to Annapolis for a series of Star matches.
The competitions continued Friday as the Army and Navy Sandhurst teams made their way throughout the city of Philadelphia for a series events pitting them against each other both physically and intellectually.
The day-long battle kicked off early Friday morning in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art at the famous Rocky Steps for the Rocky Relay. Members of each team raced to complete a set of push-ups and jump ropes and then a sprint to the top of the stairs, before a group of four members dashed their way to the top of the steps carrying a litter and mannequin.
With a crowd of people lining the steps and cheering them on, the Army team decisively won the first event before moving on to Independence Hall for the Leadership Reaction Course. There, two team leaders had to each guide four blindfolded team members through maze where they found a pile of t-shirts. Each team was then given 15 minutes to spell as many words as possible using the letters on the t-shirts.
The challenge tested the teams' endurance, leadership and intellect and the Army team used words such as satire and dire to win the challenge and take a commanding two event lead in the competition.
"It is great," said Ken Stahl, whose son Class of 2019 Cadet Dalton Stahl is on the Army team, of running through Philadelphia with the team and cheering them to victory. "I know how hard they train and how seriously they take it. It is great to see them having fun doing it."
The teams then made their way to the Shops at Liberty Place in the center of Philadelphia for a pep rally featuring the Rabble Rousers and Cadet Spirit Band along with Navy's spirit groups. Following the pep rally, the team's competed in the day's third event, a pull-up challenge, where Navy pulled of its first victory of the day.
Friday's portion of the Patriot Games concluded across the river in New Jersey as Army swept Navy 3-0 in tug-a-war in the shadow of the Battleship New Jersey.
The final event of the Patriot Games took place Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field prior to kickoff. Despite holding a 3-1 lead in the games, Army still needed to win the obstacle course challenge in order to win overall. The Cadets raced to a big lead early in the race, but much like the game it proceeded, a late surge by the Midshipmen closed the gap, but came up short as Army dove across the finish line for its first victory of the day.
Although game itself didn't start until 3 p.m., the events of the day started hours before with ESPN's Gameday hosting a live show outside the stadium. The cadets and midshipmen then moved inside the stadium where the two corps took the field in the annual march-on.
"The march-on is something that is only ever done at Army-Navy. No other competition or game is like that. It was really exciting to get out there and lead them and pretty awesome because I have participated in it the last three years and now, I finally got to lead," First Captain Class of 2019 Cadet David Bindon said. "I am trying to take it all in because this will be my last one and my last time to see the Army-Navy game as a cadet and stand in the Corps of Cadets with a lot of fans cheering on the Army team."
Along with the end of the Patriot Games, the pregame festivities included the prisoner exchange during which the exchange students spending the semester at either the Naval Academy or U.S. Military Academy rejoined their corps for the game. This year, seven midshipmen and seven cadets took part in the program spending the semester at the other academy.
"The prisoner exchange will be the highlight of the entire program," Class of 2020 Cadet Ben Jones said. "While it was a fantastic semester at Navy, the friendships you create at West Point are unparalleled and are the reason we are all excited to return. Running off the field and joining the Crops for the game will be an awesome experience."
Parachute jumps and flyovers by both the Army and Navy and a coin toss by President Donald J. Trump marked the beginning of the game as the teams took the field as enemies before embarking on their service careers as allies fighting for the United States.
Army found success early scoring on its first drive of the game, but from that point on the teams proved to be mostly evenly matched as the defenses dominated and both teams struggled to move the ball.
Army led 10-0 in the middle of the third quarter before a Navy touchdown cut the lead to 10-7. A fourth quarter strip sack by senior linebacker Kenneth Brinson set up an Army touchdown to go up 17-7 clinching the game and the Commander-in-Chief's trophy outright along with the right to sing second.