Last weekend I had the great privilege of attending the 116th Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia. Philadelphia has hosted 86 of these contests and for good reason. It’s hard to argue that any other city in America has a prouder history. It’s America’s first capital, birthplace of the Constitution, and home of the Liberty Bell. It’s also the halfway point between both academies and a great meeting place for fans. I’ve been to over a hundred college football games but walking through the tailgates pre-game gives you emotions unlike any other sporting event. When talking to family members of these cadets and midshipmen you understand that this game is insignificant in the grand scheme of things. The rivalry during the game is intense but the comradery that follows is of greater importance. While the majority of college athletes leave school to embark on any number of professions, the graduates of these academies in many instances leave for boot camp. The importance of what comes next is echoed in a pregame invocation by Army Chaplain Matthew Pawlikowski:
“Ready today to happily visit violence to each other, and, if need be, someday, sometime soon, on the enemies of the world so that our citizens, our allies’ citizens, indeed the sane citizens of all countries, can sleep safe and sound in peace”.
Anyone who’s watched the series since the turn of the century can see that the rivalry’s been very one sided. The Naval Academy has beaten the Black Knights in thirteen straight games. This year, with Army entering the game with a 2-9 record and Navy being nationally ranked, it looked like another blow out was coming. Once the Apache helicopters flew overhead and the teams took the field, it was obvious that neither team would get blown out. When Army took a 17-14 lead at the end of the first half it was awesome seeing the cadets go into complete pandemonium. In the end, Army squandered numerous fourth quarter scoring opportunities and fell to the heavily favored Midshipmen 21-17. The moment that will always live in my mind is after the game when both teams sing each other’s alma mater. The respect both institutions have for each other is unmatched and beautiful to see. Overall it was a humbling experience to watch our most courageous and selfless young men compete against each other on a field of play.
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Providence Steam Rollers – Long before the Patriots won championships for New England it was the Steam Rollers from Providence. The Steam Rollers would be the only NFL team to play home games in the state of Rhode Island. They would win one Championship in 1928 before the team folded in 1933.
Staten Island Stapletons – The Stapletons were founded in 1915 as a local club football team but were admitted into the NFL in 1925. They would compete with other local New York City teams like the New York Giants and Brooklyn Football Dodgers. While the “Stapes” had success they couldn’t survive the Great Depression and had to fold in 1935.
Frankford Yellow Jackets – The First team to bring the state of Pennsylvania a professional football championship was the Frankford Yellow Jackets in 1926. Not only did the Yellow Jackets win the championship but also won a record 14 games that season. This record wouldn’t be broken until the San Francisco 49ers went 15-1 in 1984.
Cleveland Bulldogs – The Cleveland Bulldogs have a short but very controversial history. Before 1933, a championship game did not exist in the NFL, so the team with the best record was considered champion. In 1924, a 7-1-1 Bulldogs squad was handed the Trophy over a Chicago Bears team that went 6-1-4 and beat the Bulldogs.
Boston Yanks – Most people would agree the Nickname “Yanks” doesn’t sound right in a city like Boston. Team owner Ted Collins went with Yanks in hopes of someday moving his team to Yankee Stadium. In 1950, Collins dream came true when he relocated to New York and started playing home games in the historic Yankee Stadium.
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Tonight’s 2015 Mid-American Conference (MAC) Championship is a matchup between two teams accustomed to seeing each other in big games. The Bowling Green Falcons and Northern Illinois Huskies face each other in the title game for the 3rd consecutive year. This year’s game serves as the rubber match of the series. Even though both teams have dominated the MAC in recent years, the momentum going into tonight’s game couldn’t be more different.
Northern Illinois fans are starting to become very accustom to seeing their Huskies in the MAC championship game. They’ve represented the West Division for an astonishing six straight years. This year, it is doubtful Husky nation is as confident as the previous five outings. After losing two starting quarterbacks earlier in the season, coach Rod Carey will send out true Freshman walk-on Tommy Fiedler. Fiedler made his collegiate debut in a loss to Ohio last weekend. To beat the heavily favored Falcons, Northern Illinois will have to lean on the MAC’s leading rusher, Joel Bouagnon. Even if Bouagnon plays like he has all season it’ll be tough slowing down an offense scoring over 44 points a game!
In his second season as head coach, Dino Barbers has the Falcon’s rolling going into tonight’s championship game. Bowling Green has won eight of nine games and already knocked out multiple big name schools. The Falcons have already won road games this season against Maryland and Purdue making them 3-1 against the BIG 10, under coach Barbers. Like their MAC rival, Bowling Green is also lead by running back Travis Greene. Greene has been extremely effective in his college career averaging 5.6 yards per rush as a Falcon. Will the Falcons take the Huskies place as leaders of the MAC or will Northern Illinois solidify their dominance with an upset win?
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