Abey leads Mids to emotional 48-45 win over Air Force (PHOTOS)

| October 8, 2017
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To say this game was important for coach Ken Niumatalolo and his Navy Midshipmen (5-0) would be an understatement.

First of all, the winner of the Navy-Air Force game has won the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy every year since 1997, and last year proved no different when the Falcons beat the Mid’s 28-14.

On that day, Air Force held Navy’s offense scoreless until the 4th quarter. Navy’s rushing attack only managed an embarrassingly low 57-yards and they turned the ball over three times. Needless to say, Air Force was circled on the calendar the day the schedule was released. This year, it was a different game as the Navy Midshipmen marched on to a 48-45 win.

But this was also a deeply personal game for the team and Offensive Coordinator Ivin Jasper.

Jasper’s son Jarren, a Broadneck High School student, was diagnosed with Supraventricular Tachycardia, an abnormally fast heart rhythm that stems from improper electrical activity in the heart.  Jarren has been through many procedures, but doctors now believe that he will need a heart transplant. Instead of being in a hospital, Jarren now has a heart assistance device while he waits that allowed him to finally go home to his family.

Navy wore special decals on their helmets to honor coach Jaspers son Jarren.

Saturday, Jarren was at the game to see his dad’s team play.

After a nearly flawless first half, Navy entered the locker room with an 18 point lead over Air Force. Abey used every weapon in his arsenal. Malcolm Perry broke a 91-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and caught a 40-yard TD reception at the end of the second. ““We just have to be careful to not wear out his legs. They want him in kick returns, punt returns, reverses. Everyone wants him everywhere,” joked Niuomatalolo. Darryl Bonner made his first start since returning to the team from an ankle injury. The injury was not a problem as he ran for 68 yards, including a 10-yard, leaping and diving score in the second quarter that sent the Navy-Marine Corps. Stadium record 38,792 fans into a frenzy.

Co-Captain Darryl Bonner scores after leaping over Air Force defender Robert Bullard.

But Air Force came out of the locker room and stunned Navy, putting together 146 yards of offense and two touchdowns in the third quarter, and In the fourth quarter, Air Force put up 21 points and took a four-point lead with 1:52 left on the clock. The game was now in Abey’s unsure hands.

Abey started the drive on his own 25-yard line. After an incomplete pass, and 7 yards off of two Darryl Bonner runs, Abey was looking at 4th and 3 and the game on the line. Abey dropped back to pass and found Brandon Colon for 25 yards and a Navy first down. Bonner then broke a 13-yard run, Chris High grabbed another 10-yards and a first down; but before he knew it, Abey was facing 3rd and 10 on the Air Force 16 yard line with 20 seconds on the clock.

Abey dropped back and hit Tyler Carmona in front of the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.

Navy celebrates with Tyler Carmona after he caught the games winning TD against Air Force

Abey didn’t just lead his team to victory on Saturday, he officially dropped the worst label in all of sports and picked up the hardest one to earn. He’s no longer the liability, he’s the leader. ” Give credit to Zach Abey. No one has been harder on that kid than I have; man, I thought he played a great game,” said Niuomatalolo.

Abey displayed the confidence and humility you expect from a leader when talking about a game-winning drive. “In our eyes, we felt we would score,” said Abey after the game “the guys did their job.”

The Mids definitely “did their job”. Navy had 557 total yards of offense on the day, including 471 yards rushing. Two players rushed for over 100 yards, three different players rushed for a touchdown, and two players caught touchdowns. Navy’s defense forced three fumbles and recovered two of them, including a D.J. Palmore recovery where he nearly took it in for the score. ““My roommate’s mom went to Air Force. I had been telling her all year I was going to get a scoop six. I was just in the middle of the field and it came my way,” said Palmore.

Navy has a lot of football left to play this season, including Memphis, #25 UCF, and Notre Dame, but this victory will stay with this group forever.

Spotted along the sidelines was former Texas Governor and current Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry.

All images © 2017, Kevin Carroll | A Digital Cure Photography for Eye On Annapolis

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About the Author ()

Kevin Chaney was born and raised in Pasadena, MD. He enlisted in the United States Navy in 2007 and served on board the USS Nimitz until 2012. He is now attending the University of Maryland. Follow him on his blog at http://kchaneyreporting.wixsite.com/sports