A military rivalry is reborn at Sabine Field

Players line up and get ready to play for Norwich University vs. US Coast Guard Academy.
Photo by Darwin Carozza

The renewal of a historic rivalry with Coast Guard did not go the way Norwich football hoped, but the team was excited to play another military school. They are already looking forward to revenge next year, players said. The “Little Army-Navy” game “will always be a game we look forward to as they are one of our biggest rivals, and losing to them is hard to take,” said sophomore defensive lineman Ferron Greene.

Leading up to the game, Norwich (0-3) had lost to Castleton in the previous week by a score of 28-14, in the annual Maple Sap Bucket rivalry game. This game however showcased Matthew Chaffee, sophomore quarterback, who saw his first collegiate career action late in the third quarter, where he put up two touchdowns and recorded 148 yards passing. Prior to the “Little Army-Navy” game, Coast Guard (2-1) was coming off a 13-0 shutout win over Nichols College, where its defense only let up 123 yards of total offense, and recorded four interceptions. Coast Guard’s quarterback was off to a quick start this season, passing for 753 yards and four touchdowns.

Norwich has seen some tough opponents early in their season and has had some difficulty overcoming these challenges after a number of key injuries, but were able to build up momentum leading up to the game as they put the previous three games behind them. The excitement was in the air throughout the whole week leading up to the big game. Practices were long and hard, players were determined, and the students’ energy was through the roof.

In the first quarter Norwich was able to pull ahead of the Bears, leading 3-0. Their lead carried on into the second quarter when they were able to obtain another field goal, entering half-time with a 6-0 lead. The Cadets start was powerful and athletic; however, the Bears were not going to give up as easily as Norwich may have wished. In the third quarter the Bears got going and tied the game, thanks to their kicker, Cole Austin, who was 2 for 2 on the day. Likewise, again in the fourth quarter, the Bears took possession and scored another 7 points. Unfortunately, that was it and the score ended in a 13-9 loss for the Cadets.

This however was an important date for many individuals and families that gathered in Northfield, Vermont as it was alumni weekend. Not only was this weekend a time where the football players were supported by the alumni, but many Cadets were also supported by their families and loved ones. “I thought it was the best atmosphere that I’ve experienced in the four years playing here,” said senior inside linebacker Nicholas Ferrara. The team was supported by almost 5,000 fans packing the stands inside the newly renovated Sabine Field.

Rivalry games are based on winning and losing and when you lose to a rival “there is nothing you want more than to play them the next year and beat them,” said Greene. When you have a rivalry as old as the “Little Army-Navy” game, there is plenty of history and stories that go along with it.

One of the most famous stories that came out of this rivalry is when Norwich University Corps of Cadets members went to Coast Guard and stole their mascot. “I believe it was before the big game in 1974 – Norwich stole the Coast Guard Academy mascot Objee the bear and the Coast Guard Academy cadets kidnapped the Norwich Regimental Commander! I remember him being introduced at breakfast…it still amazes me how all that happened – it’s not exactly a short trip between the two schools,” said Dick Walleshauser, a Coast Guard grad.

Norwich has felt the agony of defeat since the last time these two teams met in 2005, and had hoped to change that feeling on Sept. 23 at Sabine field. While a loss can be seen as a setback, Norwich does an exceptional job at teaching not only athletes, but all students how to accept hardships and overcome them. All the players were disappointed with the result, but tried to keep positivity in the air at this special event. “It was a game we should’ve won,” said Ferrara. “We should have brought the game home, especially it being alumni weekend.”

Alumni weekend is a cherished tradition for Norwich’s football team, as players from last year all the way back to players who graduated decades ago, come to watch their former team play and continue the long legacy. “It’s not about us, it’s about years past and the guys coming back to support the program,” said junior tight end Garrett Chapell, “We knew it was a big game.”

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