Air Force, Army renew rivalry in top ten showdown

D1A Rugby: Air Force, Army renew rivalry in top ten showdown
Photo Credit: Rich Bristol (left) & Mady Salvani (right)

WEST POINT, N.Y. – Many college conferences have taken the weekend off from matches to ensure rugby fans and players can be in front of a television during Saturday’s historic USA Eagles versus New Zealand All Blacks match. Even with the minimal D1A matches on the schedule this week, there is still one marquee matchup to be played in tomorrow’s rivalry game between No. 3 Army and No. 8 Air Force.

Both Air Force and Army have had surprisingly successful fall runs. Army is back on the national stage following a lengthy suspension with only two returning starters from last season. Even with a starting XV loaded with youth, the Brothers are undefeated and coming off a massive win over Rugby East rival Kutztown. Air Force, after missing out on last spring’s D1A Playoffs, has returned to West Conference action with vengeance – sweeping its fall portion of league play and topping Navy, 38-26.

There will be no letdown from an emotional standpoint for Army after its defeat of Kutztown. Even following its vital win, which will seal a Rugby East Championship if the Black Knights beat Wheeling Jesuit Nov. 8, firsties Collum Magee and Logan Pearce will continue to keep their less-experienced teammates focused. While the leadership of Magee and Pearce has been crucial to the team’s success this semester, the rest of the Brothers shouldn’t need much of a motivational speech given the immense rivalry the two teams share.

Meanwhile, Air Force is on a mission to sweep its fellow military academy rivals – a task not easily obtained considering the historically prolific programs of Army and Navy.

“Beating Navy and Army has been one of our main goals since the start of the season,” explained Air Force scrum half Victor Woo. “We believe that the situation we are in is a testament to the efforts and hard work that each player on the team has produced. By winning this game, the team would know that all of the training and conditioning we’ve been through has been worth it.”

This typically heated matchup is even more intensified with both teams currently ranked in D1A’s top 10. Still, Woo and his squad are less worried about rankings as they are playing a complete 80-minute performance against their rival.

“For us, the rankings don’t matter as much because we can only control our game, so that’s what we choose to focus on,” said the Air Force backs captain. “We try to approach every game with a sense of pride and let the rest fall into place. We may not be a team full of individual champions, but we aspire to be a championship team, and beating teams like Army is a step in the right direction.”

Regardless of Oct. 31’s results, it would not be a surprise if these two squads of courageous student-athletes meet again this season – possibly deep into the 2015 D1A Playoffs.