Thursday, November 13, 2014

USNA's Sprint Football Team Takes Down Army

By MIDN 1/C Annie-Norah Beveridge

On Friday, October 31st the Naval Academy Sprint Football team took down Army, 27-7, finishing their season atop the CSFL standings with a perfect 7-0 record.  I caught up with the senior quarterback and co-captain, Joe Hampton, to learn a little more about the sport, its history, and the 65 midshipmen along with the managers, trainers, and coaches that make up the team.

Sprint Football is regulation football with one unique rule.  Players cannot exceed the 172 lbs. weight limit. Originally called “lightweight football,” the weight limit was 150 lbs. when it became popular in the 1930s. 

Legend has it that large state schools such as the University of Michigan and University of Florida were the first institutions to field teams.  Over the years, however, the league settled with eight teams, comprised of Ivy League schools, Army, and Navy. The Naval Academy joined the league in 1946 and since joining, has a 349-66-9 record – including 41-31-1 record against Army – and 36 league championships.  There are 20 Sprint Football players in the Navy Athletic Hall of Fame.

The Sprint Football’s practice schedule is very similar to any other football team’s schedule.  At lunch, the team will watch films and lift weights and after school they spend between two and three hours on the field running through plays, installing new schemes, and conditioning particularly hard. 

The weight rules add a unique facet, and the team must weigh-in four days before game day and two days before game day.  In order to prepare for these weigh-ins, team members will spend extra time on a bike or on a treadmill with sweats on to lose weight.  They will also stick to a stringent diet that includes tuna salad, greens, and fruit as staples. 

If you consider all of the field time, lifting time, film, and classroom sessions and cutting time as lab hours, Sprint Football equates to roughly 18 credit hours.
Having lost to Army for two years in a row, the Navy team was hardly the favorite approaching the championship game.  While Army and Navy often dominate the league, this year saw extreme parity in the league as the Navy team trailed at some point in every game except Princeton and Army, which were both home games.

Going into the game, though, the team was confident because of an extremely stout defense, well-balanced offense, and a solid game plan from the coaching staff.  The team worked extremely hard as scout players pushed starters every day and the coaches were always prepared.

It would be impossible to pinpoint a single player from the last game as everyone contributed to the team effort.  The offensive line, with four seniors, played an incredible game against a strong front 7 for Army.  Not only did they play a pivotal role in Eric “Cheese” Wellmon’s record setting year, but they did an outstanding job protecting the quarterback, giving the receivers time to work and get open. 

At the same time, Alec Jarm at tight end not only blocked like an animal but had possibly the best catch of the night on a pivotal drive early in the game.  Dom Chumich dislocated his shoulder but continued to selflessly dominate his space with his body.  The defense played their best game of the year as the pass rush was phenomenal from seniors Ben Pope, Jack Moyle, and Chris Mershon.  Billy Eisenhauer had an incredible game as a run stopper and in pass coverage. 

In addition to that, the defensive back-field came up huge with key turnovers and keeping Army’s potent passing game contained for sixty minutes.  If you’ve ever seen Remember the Titans, it was a game reminiscent of Julius’s speech on the real meaning of perfection. The team played perfectly Friday night.

In the past, the defense and offense have not always had an amicable relationship.  This year however, the senior class has been extremely close as a whole which has helped the team become a more cohesive unit.  Beating Army was the culmination of consistent effort and enduring spirit. Hampton notes that Beating Army was a “surreal, euphoric, redeeming, and unreal” experience that made him and other, “proud to be a midshipman and proud to be a Sprint Football player.” 

Going forward, the team hopes to build off the success that they have had this year which starts with the idea of all team members that they are winner; in Bancroft Hall, in the classroom, and on the field.

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