Most of them were in kindergarten or first grade the last time this happened.
So, excuse the seniors on the 2016 Navy football team if they appeared dumbfounded. All around them, gray-coated Army cadets vaulted out of the stands at M&T Bank Stadium to celebrate the impossible. Army had just beaten Navy for the first time since 2001, outlasting the Midshipmen in a topsy-turvy 117th edition of the great rivalry game.
"At that moment, I knew it was over, and there was nothing we could do," said senior co-captain Toneo Gulley, his tone subdued as he watched jubilant Army players pass by the Navy locker room.
Gulley's broken left foot was propped on a scooter. He was one of four offensive starters who missed the Army game because of injuries suffered the previous Saturday in Navy's conference championship loss to Temple.
"As a senior class, you always want to go out beating your rivals," Gulley said. "But we didn't get it done today, and it hurts. We just try to take it game by game and don't really think about the streak. But the streak is ended. They beat us. At some point, it was going to break."
Sophomore quarterback Zach Abey had tears in his eyes during the postgame news conference. The Archbishop Spalding product had done his best to fill in for senior quarterback Will Worth, who injured his right foot against Temple. But now the weight of his mistakes haunted him as he thought of the clock running out on his older teammates.
"I feel horrible for the seniors because I told them before the game that I would give it my all for them, especially for Will and Tago [Smith], knowing how much they wanted this," he said, hurt dripping from every word.
It did not matter that so many factors outside their control had lined up to give Army its best chance in a generation. The Midshipmen refused to lament the injuries or the fact that they were tired from playing eight weeks in a row.
"It is what it is. They weren't going to postpone the game," said Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo, who like his players had never lost to Army.
In the other locker room, Army coach Jeff Monken — who learned from former Navy coach Paul Johnson, just as Niumatalolo did — spoke of the powerful emotions he felt for his seniors.
"I'm so happy for them," he said. "The sense of pride that they'll have to go on, having beat Navy."
The streak — 14 straight. Navy players had heard questions about it from the day they set foot in Annapolis.
But for the seniors, the historical significance of the loss did not sting as badly as the realization they would never get another shot at their greatest rivals.
"It is not so much the streak as it was that we had a goal and fell short by not coming here and playing the way we should have," senior wide receiver Jamir Tillman said. "It sucks when you lose. It truly does suck, and I'm not going to sugarcoat it. … But it is not the end of the world because we are going to pick ourselves up, get through finals next week and get back on the grind to play one more game to prove that we are not going to end our season on a loss."
Navy will play Louisiana Tech in the Dec. 23 Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl. And the team's seniors did their best to look ahead in the moments after the game. But they did not want younger teammates to forget the pain they were all feeling.
"We have one more game left. Let's put all our energy into that one," Gulley said. "But remember how this felt, losing to Army. Remember how it feels and bring it into the offseason. Work hard so it won't happen next year."
Niumatalolo, meanwhile, hugged every player he could find. Asked what he told his team, he said: "Just that I love them. I'm still proud of them. We knew we lost four starters on offense last week. The guys fought against a real good team. … Our kids battled to the end. This game doesn't change the way I feel about our team or our program."
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