Daily Press (Sunday)

Black Knights hold on with late stand

- By Jimmy Golen

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Army linebacker Kalib Fortner scored on a fourth-quarter strip-sack and then stuffed quarterbac­k Tai Lavatai six inches from the goal line with 3 seconds left to help the Black Knights beat Navy 17-11 Saturday and win the 124th meeting of the nation’s oldest service academies.

After Navy fell behind 17-3, Lavatai led the Midshipmen to one touchdown to make it a one-score game and then drove them to the Army 6. With no timeouts and about 30 seconds left, Lavatai threw two incompleti­ons before hitting Alex Tecza, who was tackled inbounds at the 2.

With no timeouts — and no opportunit­y to spike the ball on fourth down — Navy scrambled to line up and managed to get the play off. Lavatai surged forward as his whole team pushed, ahead of him and behind, but Army held its ground.

The play was whistled dead, and the replay confirmed that the ball never crossed the goal line. To kill the remaining 3 seconds, Army quarterbac­k Bryson Daily took a shotgun snap, hesitated and stepped out of the end zone for an intentiona­l safety.

Cadets began to storm the field before being sent back for another review to see if time had expired. The confirmati­on from the booth set off another wave of Army fans onto the field.

Bryson Daily ran for 84 yards and threw Army’s first touchdown pass against Navy since 2015 to help the Black Knights claim bragging rights for the second straight year and the sixth time in eight tries.

Kanye Udoh ran for 88 yards for Army, which also claimed the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy that goes to the team with the best record in head-to-head matchups

against other service academies. The Black Knights upset then-No. 17 Air Force last month.

The matchup of patriots at the Patriots’ stadium brought an injection of pomp and excitement to Gillette Stadium, where the six-time Super Bowl champions have stumbled to a 3-10 record and failed to score in their last home game. New England is on pace for the worst season in Bill Belichick’s three decades as an NFL head coach, stripping some of the shine off the devoted Navy man who is in the discussion for the Greatest Of All Time.

Wearing gold uniforms that paid tribute to the Dogface Soldiers of

the 3rd Infantry Division, Army took a 10-0 lead against a Navy team that had zero pass completion­s at the half.

Lavatai, Navy’s backup quarterbac­k, replaced starter Xavier Arline in the second quarter, rushing for 74 yards and completing 16 of 26 passes for 176 yards. Lavatai drove Navy into field position early in the fourth to make it 10-3.

But with about five minutes left, Fortner punched the ball out, picked it up on one bounce and scampered 44 yards for a touchdown that gave Army a 17-3 lead.

Lavatai hit Jayden Umbarger from 14 yards out to make it 17-9 with less than five minutes left;

the 2-point conversion failed. After an unsuccessf­ul onside kick, Navy forced a punt and came within inches of a potential game-tying score.

For its 124th edition, America’s Game made its first trip to Massachuse­tts, where George Washington first took command of the Continenta­l Army and the USS Constituti­on — the world’s oldest commission­ed naval warship — is docked.

Representa­tives of the two academies came to midfield for the coin toss; the Army cadets taped onto their gray overcoats “EAT SQUID”; Navy countered with “NUKE ARMY.”

 ?? (STUART CAHILL/BOSTON HERALD) ?? Army defensive back Max DiDomenico pulls in an intercepti­on over Navy wide receiver Cody Howard on Saturday in Foxborough, Massachuse­tts.
(STUART CAHILL/BOSTON HERALD) Army defensive back Max DiDomenico pulls in an intercepti­on over Navy wide receiver Cody Howard on Saturday in Foxborough, Massachuse­tts.

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