On Thursday evening, more than 5oo U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen, joined by die-hard Navy fans, crowded the City Dock in Annapolis. The football pep rally was staged to get fans fired up for Navy's season opener against the University of Maryland on Saturday night at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.

Before the game -- which Maryland won, 23-20 -- the two teams had not met since 1964, when Maryland linebacker Jerry Fishman flashed fans the finger after a sideline tackle in Maryland's Byrd Stadium. While some fans said that incident contributed to the longtime rivalry, fans had other reasons to be excited about the game.

"It's a big game because University of Maryland is the most popular school in the state," said Andrew Ashby, Naval Academy Class of 20o8.

Longtime Navy fans Sandra and Jose Torano of Annapolis said they were excited because their four children attended the University of Maryland.

"It's two great schools in a nice collegiate competition," said Sandra Torano. "It is just as close as the Army and Air Force rivalries."

Electric Brigade, the rock group of the U.S. Naval Academy Band, began the pep rally by playing a mix of funk and rock. Surrounded by a sea of white uniforms, a little girl dressed in a gold and blue cheerleading uniform danced while two young boys wearing goat masks chanted "Fear the goat."

Last season, Navy had a 10-2 record, one of its best. However, that makes some nervous.

"We are coming off a fantastic season, but we lost a lot of our team from last year," said Lt. Scott Wiener, midshipmen activities officer.

Wiener said that if fans are receptive to the idea, a game against Maryland could be added to the yearly schedule.

Farren Fuquea, 4, daughter of Marine Col. David C. Fuquea, the U.S. Naval Academy's deputy commandant, teams up with midshipman cheerleader Matt Boehm before a pep rally last Thursday at City Dock in Annapolis.