- The Washington Times - Friday, October 6, 2006

Two teams will meet at Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs today, but all of the focus will be on a 21/2-foot tall trophy currently resting in Bancroft Hall some 1,700 miles away in Annapolis.

There is nothing wrong with that, given the home team has not held the shrine for three years after owning it for 13 of 14, and the visiting team has been the reason why.

But not to be forgotten in this game between service academies is that Navy (4-1) and Air Force (2-1) are pretty good football teams.

“They are playing determined right now,” Navy linebacker David Mahoney said. “They are really determined that this is going to be there year. Anytime you play a team like that, that is on a mission you have to be careful because they are very dangerous. They are a good team with good players. We can’t go in there and think we are going to win just because we won the last three years.”

It is early in the season, but both teams harbor postseason aspirations. The Midshipmen could move within a win of securing bowl eligibility for the fourth consecutive season.

The Falcons have more work to do, but with wins against Mountain West Conference foes Wyoming and New Mexico and a one-point loss at nationally ranked Tennessee, Air Force could go a long way toward not only erasing the memory of three straight losses to the Mids but also two consecutive losing seasons.

The last time two service academies had winning records was 2003, but Air Force did not receive a bowl invitation despite a 7-5 mark. The same thing happened in 1997, but it was Navy’s 7-4 record that was passed over by bowl committees.

In 1996 all three academies had winning records, and both Army and Navy went to bowl games.

“I think it would mean more respect [if both schools earned bowl bids],” Air Force defensive lineman Gilberto Perez said. “We’re more than just military institutions. We play good football at the Division I level, and I think there would be more respect.”

Added Mahoney: “It would mean a lot. It would bring more attention to the service academies. A lot of people look at us and say yeah they are I-A, but maybe they shouldn’t be because they don’t play good enough opponents or they are too undersized with no NFL prospects. I think it would put both academies in the national light, and Army is getting better, so maybe one day all three of us can be there.”

There is a game between fierce rivals to be played, and the winner controls its destiny when it comes to obtaining the CIC trophy. While Navy’s recent success points toward the Mids possessing some momentum, there isn’t a psychological advantage like there could be from hammering Army every year. Navy has won three consecutive games in the series — all by three points and the past two on a field goal in the final seconds.

In recent seasons, a war of words has broken out in the two local media, and there was plenty of ammunition fired. This week has been relatively quiet on that front, however.

“I don’t think anyone wants to give bulletin board material,” Navy fullback Matt Hall said. “I am sure both coaches probably want to make sure of it. We surely don’t need to give them anything to fire them up. I’m sure they are fired up enough.”

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