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The Army-Navy Game Experience
US Army | Dec. 13, 2023
The 124th annual Army-Navy Game ended in epic fashion as the Black Knights’ defense thwarted the Midshipmen push toward the end zone. A decisive goal-line stand on fourth down, stopping them at the one-yard line with three seconds remaining, cemented the game, enabling the gridiron cadets to leave Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, with a 17-11 victory on Dec. 9.
The Army-Navy Experience culminated with a robust “Beat Navy” that reverberated through Gillette Stadium. The spirited declaration echoed not only from the Army West Point Football players, but also from the Corps of Cadets and the legion of Army spectators who traveled to New England, marking the apex of a two-day event uniting old grads, cadets and midshipmen, and throngs of people bound by their love for the military and their beloved U.S. Military Academy (USMA) and U.S. Naval Academy (USNA).
Over the two days on Dec. 8 and 9, the rivalry and spirit of both academies took center stage amid the spectacle surrounding the Army-Navy Game. The action kicked off with the Patriot Games where members of the USMA Black and Gold Sandhurst teams formed the USMA Patriot Games Team and competed in five events against their Navy foils.
The Patriot Games started on the picturesque sunny Friday morning with a best of two-of-three tug of war, a contest that USMA swept with two strong pulls, securing a decisive victory at the Minute Man National Historical Park in Concord, Massachusetts. Accompanied by a police escort, both teams traveled to Boston Common to compete in a trio of events called the Stanchion Maze, Lobster Trap Throw, and the Go Army/Go Navy Photo Op.
Prior to the start of both events, the USMA and USNA Pipes & Drums played for the spectators alongside the Corps of Cadets Band. When it was all said and done, the blindfolded USMA cadets navigated the maze in a faster time than their Navy counterparts to earn the first win. The Naval Academy team rebounded strongly, taking the lobster throw. However, the Army squad finished the event by racing up and down a hill to place three placards reading “Go Army” in a faster time as a full squad, clinching their second win of the day.
Following the parade, featuring a USAA Bag of Tea Float with members of the USNA Spirit Team, the USMA Rabble Rousers (Cheer Team), and the academies’ musical ensemble, the procession traveled through the city of Boston enroute to Faneuil Hall for an electrifying Pep Rally and the third Patriot Games event – the pull-ups.
The USMA Team soared to victory securing the first three events of the Patriot Games before moving onto the final event of the day at the Navy Yard and Bunker Hill area. The team competed in a relay race culminating in a gun drill, with the winning team firing a cannon on the USS Constitution. True to their motto of “Higher Peaks,” Army cadets once again proved victorious, creating a resounding “Boom” in Boston as they celebrated another well-earned win.
As the day turned into night, both academies, its graduates, Department of Defense leaders, civilian leaders and guests enjoyed a time-honored tradition of coming together and celebrating at the Army-Navy Football Classic Gala at the Hynes Convention Center. The festivities included a Battle of the Bands that always brings excitement to all who partake in the evening’s pageantry.
As night turned into the next morning, ESPN College Game Day greeted Army and Navy fans with a two-hour show at Gillette Stadium to get the day kicked off in the hours leading up to the big game. Just two hours before kickoff, the final Patriot Games event unfolded with a stadium obstacle relay. Participants navigated the field while carrying a football, capping the games with another Army win, completing their sweep against Navy.
In those hours and minutes leading up to the kickoff, several pregame activities took place beginning with the Brigade of Midshipmen March-On followed by an inspiring March-On by the Corps of Cadets. Subsequently, the Patriot Games concluded, paving the way for both football teams starting their warmup for the game.
Twenty-five minutes before game time, both the USMA and USNA Marathon Teams presented the game balls after their extensive runs from both academies. The pregame events culminated with the Service Academy Exchange, followed by jumps from the Army Golden Knights and Navy Leapfrogs. Post National Anthem, a spectacular flyover unfolded, featuring four Navy jets and Army rotary aircraft, including a Chinook, two Apaches and a Blackhawk.
After the coin toss, the game kicked off and three-plus hours later a classic finish at the goal-line led to cadets storming the field in elation as Army came away victorious on a balmy 50-degree day in the historical New England region.