Sticks sailed high in the air and joyful lacrosse players in gold jerseys leaped on each other, creating a wriggling pile of humanity in Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium today.
For the first time since 1972, the celebrants' gold jerseys wore the designation "Army," as Harry Jackson's third goal with 19 seconds left brought the 12th-ranked Cadets a 9-8 upset victory over sixth-rated Navy.
The Mids built a 4-1 lead in the first 10 minutes and seemed destined to record their 10th straight triumph over Army. Navy won the first nine faceoffs, stil held a comforable 6-3 lead at halftime and generally was in control of the play.
The young Cadets, however, came out for the second half determined to rid themselves of that loser's image. They did so through a combination of patient playmaking and superb goaltending by George Slabowski, one of 10 plebes who saw considerable action for the winners.
Goals by Frank Giordano and Steve Krikorian brought Army within a goal at 6-5, then the teams traded scores until the Cadets finally pulled even, 8-8, with 3:37 remaining. Paul Cino's third goal tied it, as he netted a rebound after Navy goalie Scott Bartkowski had blocked a shot by Ken Dahl.
Navy twice lost the ball in the closing minutes, once on a drop out of the stick, later on a weak long-range shot. Then, with Army in possession and 27 seconds left, the Mids drew a penalty for offside. Cino fired a long, accurate pass to Jackson at the left of the net and Jackson angled it in.
On the ensuing faceoff, Army was guilty of holding, so Navy was granted two wild shots before the celebration was warranted.
"Navy is very aggressive around the defensive end and they cut off the adjacent men," Jackson said. "Last year we ran around and lost the ball. This year Paul hit me on the diagonal and I faked and went in.
"We have speed, but not too many sticks, so we had to be patient and a few times we might have been holding it a little too long. We have sticks where it counts, though, we have it in the hearts. That's where you win it."
Army Coach Dick Edell, who once played for Navy Coach Dick Szlasa at Towson State, alternated comments with congratulatory hugs from well-wishers, his delight obvious in this first success over Navy during five years at West Point.
"It's not like I've had experience in this," Edell said. "If we'd lost by one, I'd know what to say, because we've been through that before. We have a lot of emotion. It started five years ago, when we dedicated ourselves to getting back in the Army-Navy tradition. The first time down here, four years ago, we got demolished, but the last few years we just fell short.
"This year we've had every injury known to mankind and the kids are playing on heart. We have limited offensive personnel and Navy pressures you so well on defense that we had to be patient, get in an advantageous position and wait for them to make a mistake. We didn't have to wait long."
Szlasa started senior Pat Brannigan in goal and he allowed three scores while making only two saves before he was struck in the mouth coming out to handle the ball early in the second period. Bartkowski, a sophomore, replaced him and made 12 saves, but he was overshadowed by Slabowski, who blocked 14 shots and figures to give Army an unaccustomed edge in this series over the next few years.