ANNAPOLIS, Md. — It is recognized as the greatest rivalry in all of sports. On Saturday the 121st chapter will be written.
It is the Army-Navy football game.
It is simply Navy’s biggest game of the year.
"There’s nothing like the Army-Navy game," said Navy Head Coach Ken Niumatalolo. "There’s a chill that goes through you that it’s unlike any other game. Kind of the Gladiator movie where they are in there and it’s kind of quiet and then you come out and there’s just this roar. That’s what it’s like."
Like so much in 2020 that roar will sound different. For the first time since 1943 the Army-Navy football game is kicking off at a home site - Saturday, 3:00 p.m. at West Point. It was moved from Philadelphia because of attendance limits in Pennsylvania.
"First I was a little disappointed. I didn’t want to go up there too much. I haven’t ever been up there," said Navy senior cornerback Cameron Kinley. "But then I thought about the opportunity that we have in front of us, as a team, to travel up to West Point for the first time since World War II and to beat them on their home field in their own stadium. It doesn’t really get better than that."
The rivalry resumes under some of the most trying circumstances. The pandemic moved America’s Game and affected the schedule. The Mids usually have 2 or 3 weeks to prepare for the Black Knights.
"It’s a little different this year. Obviously we just got one week, but it’s Army week," said Niumatalolo. "Our guys know what time it is. You don’t need a bunch of rah-rah speeches."
The only spectators in the stands will be the Corps of Cadets and Brigade of Midshipmen.
For the first time all season they will see a No. 68 on the field for Navy. That was the number worn by former offensive lineman David Forney. He passed away unexpectedly last February at the age of 22. His number had been out of rotation this year. Senior offensive lineman Billy Honaker will wear it on Saturday.
"I just looked up to him and he was like a big brother to me," said Honaker. "The first time that number should be worn on the field is Army-Navy and by someone who knew who he was and who loved him. Really the only thing for me now is to just play in a way that honors him and who he was as a football player."
And grab a win.
For the Mids (3-6), a victory over Army (7-2) will make 2020 a success.
"It’s everything. It always has been. This game is everything," said Niumatalolo.
"Beating Army heals all pain that you’ve experienced this whole season," added Kinley. "All the adversity that you’ve been through, all the struggles that you’ve been through because of this COVID pandemic. Beating Army heals all that and it makes all of it worth it."
Navy is undefeated all-time when playing at Army. They are 3-0. They won that game in 1943 and also won in 1890 and 1892, which were two of the first three years of the rivalry.