College Sports

Army-Navy football game weighs most heavily on seniors from both institutions

Navy captains, from left, Bijan Nichols, John Marshall and Kip Frankland are presented miniature Liberty Bell keepsakes by a representative from the Mayor of Philadelphia's office.

Legendary Navy football player Eddie Meyers went 2-0-1 against archrival Army during his varsity career.

Meyers has fond memories of the 1979 Army-Navy game, the last played at historic John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia. As a sophomore tailback, Meyers set an Army-Navy game record with 278 rushing yards as the Annapolis service academy rolled, 31-7.


Meyers, who still holds the single-game school record for carries, had another big game as a junior in helping the Midshipmen rout the Black Knights, 33-6.

Army-Navy game captains, from left, Bijan Nichols, John Marshall, Marquel Broughton, Kip Frankland and Connor Bishop stand together at a recent news conference ahead of the 123rd meeting between the two archrival institutions.

However, what happened in Meyers’ senior year was so painful that he absolutely refuses to even discuss it to this day. The 1981 Army-Navy game ended in a 3-3 tie, leaving Meyers with a lingering bitter memory.


Success or failure in the biggest game of the year defines Army and Navy football players long after they graduate. Ninth-year Army head coach Jeff Monken has learned that lesson, having heard many former players express regret about losing to the archrival as a senior.

“This game is always about the seniors. So much of their career as a Cadet and an Army football player is based on their record in the Army-Navy game and it is particularly important what happens in their senior year,” said Monken, who previously spent six seasons as an assistant at Navy. “They feel a strong responsibility as seniors to win this game.”

Army starting center Connor Bishop has been looking forward to the 2022 edition of “America’s Game” since he was a high school senior. Bishop grew up in Holland, Pennsylvania, about an hour outside of Philadelphia.

Bishop did not play in the 2019 Army-Navy game that was held at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. The last two meetings between the Black Knights and Midshipmen were played at Michie Stadium on the West Point campus and MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

For Bishop, it would mean the world to beat Navy in Philadelphia in front of family and friends in a homecoming of sorts. A victory on Dec. 10 would also enable Bishop to hold his head high as an infantry officer as part of the “Long Gray Line.”

“That’s something everyone is going to ask you for the rest of your life: What happened in the Army-Navy game your senior year? It’s kind of our legacy game and that kind of ups the ante a little bit,” Bishop said. “I’m excited to go out there with the rest of this senior class and put on display what we’re all about. We’ve been doing this together for four years now and we want to go out in style.”

Navy offensive tackle and tri-captain Kip Frankland feels the same way. He recently received Naval pilot as a service selection and is headed to flight school at Air Station Pensacola. The Tennessee native can already anticipate the questions when other flight officers find out he played football at the academy.

“Army-Navy is the game of all games here, so to go out losing would be absolutely atrocious. You always want to go out on top,” Frankland said. “To have that feeling that you took care of business against Army as a senior would be wonderful. That is something you can take out to the fleet and be proud of. You definitely don’t want to be someone who lost to Army as a senior.”


Outside linebacker John Marshall has experienced both sides of the Army-Navy postgame. As a sophomore in 2020, Marshall walked into the visiting locker room at Michie Stadium and saw seniors sitting with their heads hung and shedding tears.

“It was heartbreaking. I remember being so sad and disappointed for the seniors,” Marshall said.

By contrast, Marshall will never forget the joy and jubilation expressed by senior defenders such as Diego Fagot and Michael McMorris after Navy beat Army, 17-13, last season. They and other seniors climbed into the first row of stands at MetLife Stadium to celebrate with members of the Brigade of Midshipmen then triumphantly sang Blue and Gold in boisterous voices.

“I was really close with the captains from last season and I know how much it meant for them to beat Army as seniors,” Marshall said. “That sense of euphoria that they felt is what I want to replicate.”

Marshall, Frankland and fellow tri-captain Bijan Nichols set several goals going into this season and almost all have fallen by the wayside. Navy will not capture the coveted Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy and has long since been out of contention for a berth in the American Athletic Conference championship game.

Navy's John Marshall said beating Army would "mean everything to be able to beat Army and go out on a high note. If we get this win, it will kind of ease the pain of a tough season."

The Midshipmen are guaranteed a losing record and will miss out on a bowl berth for the fourth time in the past five seasons. At this point, only one preseason goal remains in play.


“Our season has not gone how we had hoped as seniors, so this game is a chance to make things right,” Marshall admitted. “It would mean everything to be able to beat Army and go out on a high note. If we get this win, it will kind of ease the pain of a tough season. There is no doubt we need this win badly.”

Standout safety Marquel Broughton is a four-year letterman and three-year starter at Army. The Georgia native notched three tackles as the Black Knights shut out the Mids, 15-0, in the 2020 game that was supposed to be played in Philadelphia, but was moved to West Point because of the pandemic.

Broughton played in the 2019 and 2021 Army-Navy games that were both losses for his side. He remembers the seniors breaking down and collapsing on the field as soon as the final horn blew to end last season’s contest.

“This is the last time I get to go against the archrival, and that means a lot. There’s no do-over, there’s no next year. It’s now or never, and that brings a real sense of urgency,” Broughton said. “I’ve talked to some of the seniors from last season and that still weighs heavy on their hearts that they didn’t get it done their senior year.”

Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo notes that his seniors have a chance to complete their careers 3-1 against Army. As far as the 15th-year mentor is concerned, the 2020 loss to the Black Knights comes with an asterisk since it was the crazy COVID season and the contest was not played at a neutral site as usual.

The Midshipmen set a series record by beating the Black Knights in 14 straight seasons. Niumatalolo was an assistant when the streak began in 2002 and was head coach when it ended in 2016. That historic run spawned 11 Navy senior classes that finished 4-0 against Army. Niumatalolo intends to impress upon the current seniors how notable a 3-1 mark would be.


“You want bragging rights for the rest of time. This is their last time playing against the archrival and that means a lot. With a win, you can ride off into the sunset feeling good,” Niumatalolo said. “That will be a message for the seniors that they have a chance to write history as a class that went 3-1 against Army.”