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Navy sprint football laments lost game against Cornell, looks ahead to possible rematch with Army

Navy Pregame
Navy Pregame (Phil Hoffmann)

A sprint football game scheduled for Friday night between a dominant Navy team and a struggling Cornell program was canceled due to “health and safety reasons” not related to COVID-19.

According to Cornell sports information coordinator Christian Gravius, the Big Red had to play on Oct. 17 instead of the day before, which allowed only four full days of rest before their game with the Midshipmen. Normally, the Ivy League program allots five or six days between games.

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Gravius said the Cornell coaching staff made the decision to forfeit to Navy after determining “it wasn’t in [their] best interest to go [to Annapolis].”

Navy first-year coach Alfonso Meidus called the cancellation “unfortunate” because the players wouldn’t have a chance to compete and because it was one of only three home games this season.

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“A lot of the families of players were scheduled to fly out to see their sons play and those plans couldn’t be changed this late,” said Meidus, an active duty major in the Marine Corps.

Navy senior defensive back Adam Weissenfels, whose dad was going to make the cross-country trip to attend the game, wasn’t fully on board with the official reason for the forfeit.

“I don’t think it’s any secret what the outcome of that game would have been … no disrespect to Cornell. Based on our records and our history this season, I think it would have been a little bit of a lopsided victory for us,” Weissenfels said.

For context, Navy beat Cornell 70-7 last season and has now outscored Cornell 194-42 over the last four meetings. Through four games this season, Navy is 4-0 and has outscored its opponents, 176-23. Meanwhile, Cornell is 1-4 with its lone victory coming against St. Thomas Aquinas by three points. Navy beat St. Thomas Aquinas earlier this season, 55-7.

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What exactly is sprint football? Formerly known as lightweight football, it is a full-contact, intercollegiate varsity sport that has the same rules as regular college football except all players must weigh 178 pounds or less.

Navy, Cornell and seven other schools make up the Collegiate Sprint Football League (CSFL) which has been in existence since before World War II. Navy’s all-time record in sprint football is 379-74-9 over 76 years.

Adam Weissenfels is a standout safety for the sprint football team. He is the son of former Navy football player and track and field athlete Bob Weissenfels.
Adam Weissenfels is a standout safety for the sprint football team. He is the son of former Navy football player and track and field athlete Bob Weissenfels. (Phil Hoffmann)

Weissenfels, who played football for Richland High School in Washington state, is the prototypical Navy sprint football player. He was recruited by a handful of Division II and III schools but decided to go to Annapolis because of the bigger picture.

He is the son of Bob Weissenfels, a standout safety who led Navy in tackles for two seasons and was defensive captain of the 1989 team. Weissenfels, who was also a decathlete for the Navy track and field team, was a member of the four-man bobsled team that represented the United States at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France.

“My dad went to the Naval Academy and I really appreciated everything about it. I wanted to fly planes. I can’t think of anything cooler to do as a job,” the younger Weissenfels said. “I learned about sprint football when I attended the summer seminar program and decided to try it when I got here.”

Things have worked out as Weissenfels is a pivotal part of a Navy defense that is giving up only 165 yards per game, including a minuscule 7 rushing yards.

In addition to Weissenfels, the unit is led by linebackers Mike Garnett and Paul Kuehler along with lineman Jake Karczewski.

“[Weissenfels] is always in the right place at the right time. He has the best instincts on the team,” Meidus said. “Mike is the leader of the defense and Jake is the staple. They do a really good job of limiting what the other team tries to do.”

On offense, Navy runs a spread attack that relies on a running attack led by senior Matthew McGee and junior Alex Totta, who have combined for 609 yards on 109 carries.

“We have a really good one-two punch with McGee and Totta. They are different style runners. A lot of our success in our run game is based on the two of them and our offensive line,” Meidus said.

According to Meidus, it’s along the offensive and defensive lines where Navy separates itself from the rest of the league. While most skill players at Navy and in the CSFL played those positions in high school, the linemen are transitioning to new positions.

Naturally, the more time the coaching staff has to develop those players the better. Meidus said Navy has the luxury of developing offensive and defensive linemen.

“I think we benefit from continuity, whereas at other schools they lose players all the time. We kind of know that once you get a guy here, you are going to have them for four years,” Meidus said.

What makes sprint football even more fun for Weissenfels and his teammates is the competition against one opponent in particular — archrival Army. The Black Knights, who are 3-1 this season, are 8-8 against the Midshipmen in their last 16 meetings.

“Playing Army is fantastic. It is honestly the biggest reason I play sprint football,” Weissenfels said. “It would be a different culture and anticipation for the season if we didn’t get to play Army. Every season we set our team goals and the first one is always to beat Army.”

According to Weissenfels, what made the 2020 campaign, which was cut short due to COVID-19 concerns, so frustrating is that Navy practiced for three months and played one game against Army, losing 7-3.

So it was equally as rewarding for the players and coaches when Navy beat Army, 14-6, in the annual Star game on Oct. 2.

“It was probably the worst feeling I ever felt, so we were really hungry going into this game this season,” Weissenfels said. “I don’t think the score shows how dominant we were in that game, but in my opinion, we dominated them.”

Weissenfels, who threw a 9-yard pass on a fake field goal to help secure the win, is all-in on what he calls a “chippy” rivalry with Army. In fact, when asked if he had any concerns about providing the Black Knights with bulletin-board material or extra motivation in the likely event they meet again in the CSFL championship game in November, Weissenfels doubled down.

“I think they know [we dominated them]. I hope we see them again. That is the plan,” he said.

Listening to his senior defensive back’s comments, Meidus was a little more conservative with his own remarks regarding a possible rematch with Army. “Beating a team twice in a season is extremely difficult, but I appreciate Matt’s confidence in our program,” he said.

Navy's sprint football team before a game.
Navy's sprint football team before a game. (Phil Hoffmann)
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