Hawaii footprints in Army-Navy clash


POSTED: Saturday, December 12, 2009

PHILADELPHIA » By national standards, these two teams do not garner much attention.

Outside of Navy's invitations to minor bowl games and Army without a winning season since the last century, names are largely forgotten and deeds ignored.

Neither team has had an All-American in decades, and coverage of their collective games is confined to local media.

But don't say any of that to the participants or their supporters. Today's 110th meeting of these two academies still commands the loyalty and pageantry reserved for teams of accomplishment.

Because of rigorous academic requirements and the military commitment after graduation, the academies are compromised in their ability to attract top athletes. Recruiting is essentially ignored because the academies can't lure the 6-foot-5 quarterback with a cannon arm, the wide receiver with 4.4 speed, or the 250-pound linebacker who can bench press a shopping center.

Still, just the mention of Army-Navy can produce flickering images of players long ago, something the participants are well aware of entering today's matchup.

“;This game has all kinds of meaning,”; said Army head coach Rich Ellerson. “;We all know the history and tradition. We are conscious of the shoes in which we are walking and this venue.”;

On the field, both teams employ a triple option born from the mind of former Hawaii offensive coordinator Paul Johnson, and each with their own degree of success.

Navy has put together seven consecutive winning seasons and is heading to its seventh straight bowl game

Under Ellerson, in his first year at the banks of the Hudson, Army has gathered more wins since 1996.

Both head coaches have strong ties to the islands. Ellerson and Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo graduated from the University of Hawaii. Ellerson recruited Niumatalolo, as a quarterback, out of Radford High School.

Though he played football and basketball at Radford, Niumatalolo, who was a signal-caller under Johnson, sat behind Garrett Gabriel in college, and started only one game.

Still, Niumatalolo and Navy's current offensive coordinator, Ivin Jasper, were part of Hawaii's 1992 Holiday Bowl win over Illinois.