- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 3, 2001

ANNAPOLIS The country might be teeming with patriotism after last month's terrorist attacks, but that hasn't changed the Navy football players' feelings about one of their fellow service academies.

They still don't like Air Force.

"The circumstances don't change the game," junior slotback Gene Reese said about the Midshipmen's affair against the Falcons at noon Saturday at FedEx Field. "It's still big. We want to beat them just as bad. I don't know if it adds fire or takes away a bit. I just know we still want to win… .

"The higher-ups probably won't like me saying this. We respect Army as much as we respect Air Force, but Air Force has something we want, and we want to bring it back."

That something is the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy, which goes to the winner of the round-robin among the service academies. Reese, who recovered during the team's off week from the pulled hamstring that kept him out of the Boston College game Sept. 22, echoed the thoughts of many of his teammates. Every year the Mids (0-2) talk about their dislike for the swagger of the Falcons (2-1), who usually go to a bowl and have won the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy 12 of the past 13 seasons.

Still, the game will be the first between any of the academies since Sept. 11, and that means it "will be a very, very emotional game with everything going on and the rivalry," sophomore cornerback Shalimar Brazier said. "Football always was there, but with the tragedy it looked like a small thing. I think we're starting to get back in focus."

To do that, coach Charlie Weatherbie closed practice this week. It wasn't a response to heightened security on campus sandbags still form a bunker of sorts for the guards at the gates but just his usual ritual before a game against another academy.

'Classified' stuff

The mood at the academy pretty much has returned to normal, so much so that the Mids have begun the annual tradition of pulling pranks on the exchange students from Air Force.

"All the Mids are running around the halls, beating up Air Force exchange students," Reese said, laughing. "[Actually], it's just some practical jokes. We don't do anything to hurt them."

So what are the jokes?

"That's classified information," Reese said. "We don't want to scare exchange students away."

Junior fullback Bryce McDonald revealed a little bit of the inside stuff, though.

"They go into rooms, play with uniforms," said McDonald, who again will start Saturday over Raheem Lambert. "People have their heads shaved… . The plebes let them have it."

Jackson walks

Navy's defense, ranked 112th overall and 114th in scoring defense, took another hit this week. Senior cornerback Marcus Jackson, who started the first three games, left the team for personal reasons, Weatherbie said. Jackson started every game last season, finishing with 47 tackles.

"He just decided he didn't want to play for personal reasons," Weatherbie said. "You hate for anybody who's got a chance to play for you to do that."

Junior Clyde Clark will start in Jackson's stead opposite Brazier. Clark lost out to Jackson in a fight for the starting spot before the 2000 season.

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