Army hopes to replicate its prep school success vs. Navy

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Sports,College,Kevin Dunleavy

Black Knights have lost

10 straight to the Mids

When the U.S. Military Academy Prep School steamrolled Navy in 2008, the Black Knights figured success would follow to West Point. But four years later, the senior class has yet to beat its archrival, extending Army's losing streak to a series-record 10 games.

Up Next
Army vs. Navy
When » Saturday, 3 p.m.
Where »
Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia
TV » CBS

Saturday when Army (2-9) meets Navy (7-4) for the 113th time in their storied rivalry, it will be the last chance for the class of 2013 to halt the dreaded streak and bring the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy to West Point for the first time since 1996.

The seniors have tasted success against Navy, but the big prize has been elusive.

"We beat them pretty well. It was my first experience with the whole Army-Navy thing, the first time really understanding what it was all about," Army quarterback Trent Steelman said of the 2008 prep school win. "We thought that from there we were going to have success all through our career up at West Point. We're down to one more chance."

The seniors have made their mark, playing a role two seasons ago when Army reached its first bowl game in 14 years. They accomplished another goal last month with a 41-21 victory over Air Force, breaking their 13-game skid against service academy rivals. Their other two goals remain unrealized.

"When we beat them in prep school, we made a pact -- to beat Navy and win the CIC," tackle Jarrett Mackey said. "We talk about it all the time. It's still a goal that we can achieve. It would mean everything to us as a class."

For good reason, nobody from Navy could recall the score of that USMAPS victory. Mackey thought it was 56-28. There still is bitterness in Navy linebacker Brye French's voice when he recalls the game.

"They had a few weeks to prepare, and they put in a whole new offense," French said. "They got us pretty good."

For French and his NAPS teammates, the pain dissipated with a subsequent bus trip to Philadelphia, watching Navy drill an Army team that had just installed the option offense 34-0.

Since that game, however, with four-year starter Steelman running the triple option, the Black Knights have become more adept and given the Mids tougher games, falling 17-3 (2009), 31-17 (2010), and 27-21 last year as Navy needed a pair of fourth-quarter field goals from Jon Teague.

"We have definitely made a lot of progress over the years, in terms of closing the talent gap," Steelman said. "They have always been a little bit more talented and skilled than we have been, but I don't think there is a difference now. I think it's going to come down to who wants it more this year."

If Navy needs any additional fuel, it can look back to 2008.

"It was devastating," French said. "There's a picture of us, we're all together passing over the trophy, and I'm not a happy camper."

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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