Air Force and Army playing to sing second
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Air Force and Army playing to sing second

AFAN newsletter on bowl eligible Falcons and strong play from offensive line

Photo: Scott Hattock (61)

#AFAN (Air Force/Army/Navy) stories: My series is about more than academy football players. These stories are about future officers selflessly committed to serving their country during a seemingly endless war on terrorism. There are only 0.5 percent Americans making up the military. Throughout our history Cadets and Midshipmen have answered the call to serve in times of war, but this is a generation of volunteers.

“I get to work daily with heroes that joined the military AFTER we were attacked on 9/11, AFTER the war started in Afghanistan and AFTER the war started in Iraq. I would like to think I’m that brave, but I’m not so sure."
-- Phil McConkey, 1979 Navy grad and New York Giants Super Bowl champio


As Army prepares to travel to Air Force Saturday’s game in Colorado Springs, the second leg in the round-robin series with Navy for the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy, the motivating theme on both practice fields has been, “Sing second.”

In other words, win, listen to the losing team sing its alma mater and then have them wait while you to sing second.

If that sounds familiar, you know the ultimate service academy rivalry goal from the Army-Navy Game, the game with history and pageantry on its side that overshadows the Air Force-Navy and Air Force-Army showdowns. But make no mistake, Army and Navy players say the competition in the Air Force game is equally as fierce.

With Air Force (6-2) having already lost to Navy four weeks ago, the Falcons can’t win the CiC, but that doesn’t mean they lack motivation to gain a split in their two service academy games.

Army 3-5, meanwhile, is trying to reverse a four-game losing streak while defending the CiC Trophy that it won the past two years.

“It was tough to lose to Navy and to have the CiC out of reach, but we’ll mentally ready to compete,” said Air Force senior offensive tackle Scott Hattock, a second-year starter at right tackle. “The service academy games are different than any other game. The records don’t matter. They’ll show up and give us there best and we have to give them our best.”

Army, struggling with injuries, is still trying to regain its momentum, while Air Force wants to build on its bowl eligibility roll. The Falcons are going bowling for the first time since 2016 following back-to-back 5-7 records.

“We’ve been defined the last two years by the number 5,” Hattock said. “Getting to six wins and a bowl game was definitely one of our goals this season. We accomplished and we want to keep moving forward.”

In the last three wins, Air Force's rushing attack has rolled up 340 yards in a 43-24 win at Fresno State, 353 in a 56-26 win at Hawaii and 448 in a 31-7 win at home over Utah State. An experienced offensive line has found its stride after returning the 6-foot-5, 280-pound Hattock, with his 12 starts last year; junior left guard Nate Laufenberg (6-3, 295), nine starts; senior center Connor Vikupitz (6-3, 275), seven starts; and senior right guard Colin Marquez (6-3, 280), three starts. At left tackle, junior Parker Ferguson (6-5, 280), with 10 starts, and junior Adam Jewell (6-2, 255), who gained experience in two games last year, are listed as "or" in the starting role.

“Experience has played a role this year,” Hattock said. “All five of our starters had experience last year. Even if they played a different position, they did get valuable time. We’re a close group. We make sure we do things together during the week. It plays a role in how we relate to each other and go about our days. That camaraderie off the field definitely translates onto the field.”

This is Hattock’s third year of service academy games after making his debut his sophomore year against Navy.

“It was my first game as a starter or with real playing time,” Hattock recalled. “We took the lead, although we ended up losing. I’ll never forget that game.”

Hattock said he was aware of the academies when he was recruited, but he didn’t consider Air Force as his college choice until attending a summer camp.

“Colorado Springs is such a beautiful place with the mountains in the backdrop,” Hattock said. “Who wouldn’t love it? The education is a great and you’re guaranteed a job. There is a lot of success you can have that comes with attending this place. I took it as a challenge and not just a place to go to school and play football.”

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Tom Shanahan, Author: Raye of Light

-- Book on Michigan State's leading role in the integration of college football. It explains Duffy Daugherty's untold pioneering role and debunks myths that steered recognition away from him to Bear Bryant.


Don’t believe the myths at Duffy Daugherty’s expense about Bear Bryant’s motivation to play the 1970 USC-Alabama game or myths about the Charlie Thornhill-for-Joe Namath trade. Bear Bryant knew nothing about black talent in the South while he dragged his feet on segregation.


David Maraniss, Pulitzer Prize winner and biographer; "History writes people out of the story. It's our job to write them back in.”


Tom Shanahan

Tom Shanahan

Tom Shanahan is an award-winning sportswriter and the author of "Raye of Light". Tom spent the bulk of his career in San DIego writing for the San Diego Union-Tribune. He has covered NCAA Tournaments, Super Bowls, Rose Bowls, the NBA Finals and the World Series in a career that included writing for Voice of San Diego, the San Diego Hall of Champions and He contributes to the Detroit Free Press, Raleigh News & Observer,, and the National Football Foundation's Football Matters. He won multiple first-place awards from the San Diego Press Club and first place from the Copley News Service Ring of Truth Awards. The National Football Foundation/San Diego Chapter presented him its Distinguished American Award in 2003. USA Track and Field’s San Diego Chapter presented its President’s Award in 2000.

Raye of Light: Jimmy Raye, Duffy Daugherty, the integration of college football and the 1965-66 Michigan State Spartans. It explains Duffy Daugherty's pioneering role and debunks myths that steered recognition away from him to Bear Bryant.

By Tom Shanahan; Foreword by Tony Dungy; August Publications

David Maraniss, Pulitzer Prize winner and biographer: "History writes people out of the story. It's our job to write them back in."