Black Knights main­tain grasp on Com­man­der-in-Chief's Tro­phy

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NEWS - By John Kekis

WEST POINT, N.Y. — The Com­man­derin-Chief's Tro­phy is stay­ing put — for now — in the Army locker room.

Full­back Dar­nell Woolfolk rushed for 117 yards and a touch­down, Kelvin Hop­kins Jr. scored on a 6-yard run, and Army held off ser­vice academy ri­val Air Force 17-14 on Satur­day.

It was the 11th straight vic­tory at Michie Sta­dium for Army (7-2), which will keep the prized hard­ware, em­blem­atic of supremacy among the three ser­vice acad­e­mies, re­gard­less of the out­come of its game next month against archri­val Navy. Army won the tro­phy out­right last sea­son for the first time since 1996.

“It was a bat­tle. I was proud our team was able to find a way to win,” Army coach Jeff Monken said. “I think our guys were pressed into a cor­ner. Give them credit. They were fight­ing, too.”

Air Force (3-6), which beat Navy 35-7 a month ago, is 33-14 in Com­man­der-in-Chief's Tro­phy games against Army since the tro­phy was first awarded in 1972 and could have won the tro­phy again on Satur­day with a vic­tory. The Fal­cons had won 18 of the pre­vi­ous 21 in the se­ries against the Black Knights, but they couldn't over­come a costly in­ter­cep­tion by Army's Mike Reynolds at the Army 4 in the fi­nal minute of the first half.

The Fal­cons were un­able to score in the open­ing half with Isa­iah San­ders at quar­ter­back, fell be­hind by two scores, and couldn't re­cover de­spite dom­i­nat­ing the sec­ond half. Air Force out­gained Army 212-77 af­ter half­time with Don­ald Ham­mond III at quar­ter­back. The Black Knights se­cured the vic­tory when Ham­mond was stopped for no gain on a fourth-and-3 play at the Army 40 with un­der 2 min­utes to play.

“We were driv­ing down­field. We should have made some plays we didn't make,” Ham­mond said. “I just wanted to win this game for the team. We're never go­ing to give up. That's one thing we're not go­ing to do.”

Ham­mond had re­placed San­ders to start the third quar­ter and quickly hit Mar­cus Ben­nett for 31 yards into Army ter­ri­tory, but the drive ended when the Fal­cons were called for an il­le­gal block on a fourth-and-3 play and had to punt.

Ham­mond had com­ple­tions of 17 yards to Ger­aud San­ders and 13 yards to Mar­cus Ben­nett late in the third quar­ter, but the Fal­cons turned the ball over on downs when a fourth-down pass by Ham­mond at­tempt fell in­com­plete.

The Fal­cons fi­nally caught a break when safety Jeremy Fe­jedelem got a hand on a punt by Army's Nick Schrage and it trav­eled just 4 yards to give Air Force a first down at the Army 34 and they cap­i­tal­ized. Ham­mond scored from the 1 two plays af­ter con­vert­ing a fourth-and-1 play, cut­ting the lead to 14-6 with un­der a minute to play in the third. Jake Koehnke's point-af­ter try hit the left goal­post and stayed out.

Se­nior John Aber­crom­bie kicked a 30yard field goal with 8:35 left to com­plete a 13-play drive that took 7:19 off the clock on a gusty day and gave Army a 17-6 lead mid­way through the fourth.

Un­daunted, Ham­mond drove the Fal­cons 75 yards in 10 plays to pull within a field goal. The drive was kept alive by a pass in­ter­fer­ence call against Army on a third-and-10 play. Cole Fa­gan's 30-yard catch-and-run set up Joseph Saucier's 6-yard touch­down run off a pitch. Saucier also con­verted on the 2-point try to make it 17-14.

“When our backs are against the wall, we never flinch,” said Army line­backer Cole Chris­tiansen.

The Black Knights have now beaten ser­vice academy ri­vals Air Force and Navy two straight times. An­other vic­tory over Navy in De­cem­ber will give Army the up­per hand again in the an­nual three-way se­ries.

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