• 66°

Army seniors ready for last hurrah on field

Army-Navy game set for this Saturday

Army’s Sandon McCoy, a former star at Kannapolis’ A.L. Brown High School.

WEST POINT, N.Y. (AP) — Army quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr. is a bundle of nerves. The thought of playing one’s final college game can have that effect, and it’s magnified when the opponent is a fierce rival.

“One last time. I want to make it perfect,” Hopkins said as he prepared to face Navy on Saturday. “I’m super excited but definitely nervous.”

Hopkins is a member of a senior class that has a chance to do what no West Point class has done since 1996 — end its career with zero losses to Navy. Army snapped Navy’s 14-game winning streak in the series three years ago and has narrowed the Midshipmen’s lead in the series to 60-52-7.

“To go undefeated against Navy, finish your career as a winner, to do that would be awesome,” Hopkins said.

When Jeff Monken took over as coach before the 2014 season, Army had posted just one winning season since the 1996 team won 10 games. The Black Knights were coming off a 2-10 campaign two years later when Hopkins and his classmates arrived.

Since then, Army has made an impressive turnaround, winning 34 games to match the academy record for a four-year span. Teams coached by Ralph Sasse (1930-32) and Gar Davidson (1933) set the standard, and Earl “Red” Blaik’s teams from 1943-46 matched it, winning two national championships.

“This senior class has meant a lot for the program and the contributions they’ve made,” Monken said. “These guys have been part of a lot of victories.”

One more would be extra-special.

“We’ve accomplished something that most Army teams haven’t done,” said senior linebacker Cole Christiansen, who leads the team with 103 tackles. “The chance to become the winningest class in Army football history, I think we’ve played a pretty integral part in turning this ship around.”

A victory over No. 21 Navy (9-2, No. 23, CFP) would be a welcome end to a tough season for Army (5-7). There is no bowl game on the horizon for the first time since the seniors arrived at West Point. Too many injuries to key players, especially at quarterback, helped short-circuit a season that started with much promise after two seasons of double-digit wins.

“We fought through a lot of adversity this year coming off two really good seasons,” junior fullback Sandon McCoy (A.L. Brown) said. “They (the seniors) taught us how to fight through the adversity — when we don’t like the outcome of a lot of our games, keep fighting, keep practicing, be ready every day to work.”

The seniors helped accomplish this on their watch: won the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy two consecutive times, an academy first;  won three straight bowl games, an academy first; posted a 17-2 home record at Michie Stadium, including two consecutive unbeaten seasons and a streak of 15 straight wins; matched a school record with 10 wins in 2017, then won 11 games in 2018; ended last season ranked (19th) for the first time since 1996 (25th).

Army’s chance to play in another bowl game vanished when it lost 52-31 at Hawaii two weeks ago. Keeping that big trophy right where it is on campus for another year is the mission.

“I think we just brought a winning culture back to this team,” Hopkins said. “This season isn’t exactly where we wanted it to be, but there’s wins on the board. We set the precedent for the young guys to come back and work harder.

“When we showed up, it was a 2-10 team with a lot of guys that wanted to work hard. And now we’re here coming off three really good seasons. Senior season had a lot of ups and downs, but it’s definitely a step up from where we showed up to where we’re leaving.”

Comments

Local

Thousands of locals, out-of-towners gather for a groovy time at annual Hippie Fest

News

N.C. Zoo ready for expansion if lawmakers OK funding

Education

RSS budgeting for tens of millions in federal COVID-19 relief funding

East Spencer

‘Back in full swing’ for the spring: East Spencer community gathers for food, fun and fellowship at Spring Fest

Local

Rowan native Lingle among those honored with NC Military Veterans Hall of Fame induction

Business

Former pro baseball player, Tar Heel standout Russ Adams finds new career with Trident Insured

Education

Profoundly gifted: Salisbury boy finishing high school, associates degree at 12

Local

Cheerwine Festival will stick to Main Street, stay away from new park in September

Lifestyle

Celebrating Rowan County’s early cabinetmakers

Education

Service Above Self announces youth challenge winners

Business

Economic Development Commission creates search tool for people seeking Rowan County jobs

Columns

Amy-Lynn Albertson: Arts and Ag Farm Tour set for June 5

High School

High school baseball: Mustangs top Falcons on strength of hurlers

Business

Biz Roundup: Application process now open for Rowan Chamber’s 29th Leadership Rowan class

Sports

Keith Mitchell leads McIlroy, Woodland by 2 at Quail Hollow

Nation/World

States scale back vaccine orders as interest in shots wanes

Nation/World

Major US pipeline halts operations after ransomware attack

News

NC budget dance slowed as GOP leaders differ on bottom line

News

Judge limits footage that family can see of deputy shooting

Coronavirus

People receiving first dose of COVID-19 vaccine grows by less than 1%

Education

Rowan-Salisbury Schools brings Skills Rowan competition back to its roots

Business

Weak jobs report spurs questions about big fed spending

News

Judge limits footage that family can see of deputy shooting in Elizabeth City

Sports

Woodland, two others share lead; Mickelson plays much worse but will still be around for weekend at Quail Hollow