Cadet win caps 124th Army-Navy Game at Gillette Stadium

Photo of Cadet win in America's Game.

At Gillette Stadium in Foxborough on Saturday, the 124th Army-Navy football game unfolded, capturing the essence of America’s Game. The event took the spotlight in college football, reaching its climax with a thrilling last-second triumph for the Cadets of West Point.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft, expressing his amazement, remarked on the uniqueness of the game during an ESPN’s College GameDay interview outside the stadium. He underlined the extraordinary unity and significance of the event, drawing a parallel to the exhilaration of winning the Super Bowl.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, serving as the celebrity guest picker for the week, also made an appearance on the GameDay stage. Notably, he sided with Navy in his pick, donning the team’s vintage 1962 helmet adorned with a Jolly Roger.

Belichick spent a significant portion of his early life in Annapolis, where his father Steve served as a longtime assistant for the Midshipmen from 1956-1989. Expressing gratitude for the Patriots’ well-timed schedule after a successful Thursday Night Football victory against the Steelers, Belichick was pleased to have the opportunity to genuinely enjoy the historic game – a rarity in recent years.

Addressing the GameDay crew, which included Lee Corso, a former colleague of Belichick’s father at Annapolis in the 1960s, Belichick stated, “This is incredible, a truly unique experience. I’m excited that the game is here, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.

It’s fantastic for New England, our fans, and our stadium, and hopefully, for both academies.” Belichick also reminisced with Corso about the 1967 Army-Navy game, recalling how Corso’s bold play calling played a role in Navy’s victory – a memory that left a lasting impression on Belichick.

Hours before kickoff, spectators eagerly filled the stands, anticipating the pregame spectacles, including the March-On of both schools and the conclusion of the Patriot Games, featuring an obstacle course finale. The parachute teams of both schools, the Leap Frogs and Golden Knights, executed precise landings on the field.

The excitement reached its zenith with two flyovers – a squadron of jets for Navy and an array of helicopters for Army – as the teams entered the field, generating a charged atmosphere in the stadium leading up to the opening coin toss.

Both teams commenced the game with a predominantly run-focused strategy, interspersed with well-timed downfield attempts. The first notable moment occurred when Navy tried a downfield pass, only to have Army safety Max DeDomenico intercept the ball at the five-yard line and return it to the Army’s 35-yard line.

Following this, Army orchestrated an extensive 12-play, 65-yard scoring drive, consuming over seven minutes of game time. Quarterback Bryson Daily efficiently connected with tight end Tyson Riley from four yards out, securing a touchdown and providing Army with an early 7-0 lead in the second quarter.

In response to four unsuccessful drives in the first half, Navy opted for a quarterback change, introducing Tai Lavatai. The senior quarterback injected energy into the Midshipmen, leading them on a nine-play, 45-yard drive. Nevertheless, Army thwarted Lavatai on a quarterback run on fourth down at the Army 37-yard line.

Seizing the opportunity in the waning moments of the half, Army orchestrated a concise six-play, 34-yard drive, culminating in a 47-yard field goal by Quinn Maretzki, extending the Cadets’ lead to 10-0 at halftime.

Both teams continued to trade punts into the third quarter, grappling to establish sustained offensive momentum. On Navy’s second possession of the second half, Lavatai broke the offensive lull with a 25-yard keeper, igniting the Midshipmen’s offense in the late third quarter. The drive concluded with a 37-yard field goal, narrowing the Army lead to 10-3 early in the fourth quarter.

In the late fourth quarter, Navy, on the verge of equalizing with a touchdown, experienced a dramatic turn of events. Army linebacker Kalib Fortner stripped Lavatai of the ball, returning the fumble 44 yards for a Cadet touchdown.

Despite this setback, Navy mounted a resilient response, embarking on a determined seven-play, 59-yard touchdown-scoring drive. However, their two-point conversion attempt fell short. This drive showcased resilience and determination, contributing to yet another thrilling Army-Navy classic that unfolded as a one-score game. The game concluded with a 17-9 victory for Army in the final moments.


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