Army-Navy Media Day Blog

Army coach Jeff Monken said the intensity of the Army-Navy rivalry, “can’t be put into words,” when he took the podium for Army-Navy Media Day.

“To watch it, to be at the game is one thing,” Monken said. “To be a competitor on the field and feel the energy in the stadium is indescribable.”

Every accomplishment that Army have achieved this season with a 9-2 record and No. 23 ranking in the Associated Press poll points to the Army-Navy game, Monken said.

“It’s the pinnacle of our season,” Monken said. “It’s the most important game of the year. It’s the biggest game of the year. There are very few rivalries that you can get away with talking about 365 days of the year. But for 365 days of the year at our academy and Navy, this rivalry is talked about. We have signs up. It’s a goal of ours and we are looking forward to the game.”

Senior fullback and captain Darnell Woolfolk did not attend the media day due to two group projects Wednesday.

“He wants to do a good job,” Monken said of Woolfolk in the classroom. “He can’t control the grade he gets unless he’s there. He wants to be in the game and be in the fight and that’s just the way he plays football.”

Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo recounted receiving a call from Monken on the eve of his hiring at Army.

“I think I have a chance to get a job,” Monken said to Niumatalolo.

“Sweet,” Niumatalolo replied. “Where are you going?”

“I got a chance to go to West Point,” Monken said.

“Where?,” Niumatalolo jumped.

“I don’t know a lot of things but I know it’s hard to win football games,” Niumatalolo told the people in attendance on Media Day. “So what coach Monken and West Point done is really, really remarkable. Congratulations on your season because it’s really hard to win football games. What they have done is amazing.”

Army’s effort at Oklahoma earlier in the season didn’t surprise Navy senior safety and co-captain Sean Williams. The Black Knights took Oklahoma, currently ranked fifth in the country, to overtime before the Sooners pulled out a 28-21 win on Sept. 22.

“Option style of football is a very hard style to play,” Williams said. “For them to compete at that level, I’m sure it surprised a lot of people but I wasn’t too surprised especially with how good they (Army) are. When you don’t play option football a lot, it’s very hard to play. You have to be careful with teams like us. Our personalities are the same, very hard-nosed and tough. It was actually fun to see.”

The Black Knights are bowl eligible for the third straight year. Army athletic director Boo Corrigan said he talked to 15 bowls on Tuesday.

“ESPN owns 13 of them so that’s one group and two other people that we are talking to all of the time and have been for 10 months,” Corrigan said.

“I think a lot of people are really interested in talking to us. But, they got those contractual obligations and they are going to be able to fill their allotment.”

Corrigan said Army will find out its bowl destination/fate Sunday

Asked Corrigan about the progress of the Michie Stadium renovation project. Corrigan said project is. “still in fund-raising phase. We’ve been able to raise a good amount of money. We still need to raise a better amount of money to get there.” Corrigan said 2019, “is certainly too early” for the project to begin. I’ll have more on this topic and 2020 schedule in a future blog.

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Bowl Talk: Jeff Monken on potential opponent/destination

Nothing new to report on Army’s bowl destination.

The census from bowl projection experts seems to be a return to the Armed Forces Bowl.

The Independence Bowl is still in play where the Black Knights could meet an Atlantic Coast Conference team. Possibly Georgia Tech?

Last season, Jeff Monken said he would never schedule regular season games with Georgia Tech and coach Paul Johnson or Georgia Southern, where Monken coached before taking over at Army.

Asked Monken Tuesday if he would play Georgia Tech and Johnson in a bowl game, “I hope I don’t have to. I know they are going to be a real bugger to defend and try to play. He’s a terrific football coach. The only thing is I would have to cheer against him and I don’t like that. I like to cheer for him. He’s been a great mentor of mine. I think so much of my coaching style and my philosophy comes straight from him. I learned so much from him but I would want to beat his pants off if we had to play them. If that’s what happens, that’s what happens.”

Would Monken prefer to play a Power Five school in Army’s bowl game?

“Wherever we can go,” Monken said. “To me, there’s no bad bowl game. I would be thrilled just to have a chance to play in the postseason. I think it’s a great experience for our players. I think it’s one of the great experiences in college football to play in a bowl game. We’ll see what happens and we’ll take whatever comes our way.”

When asked if he would like to see the college football playoff expand beyond four teams, Monken said, “I would. I think it would really help college football. we can support it. They do it at all the other levels. I’d love to see them take the champion from each of the 10 conferences and take the next six-highest ranked teams. You’ll have a 16-team tournament and let’s have it out. Seed them one through 16 and you have four rounds to play it out.”

“It’s the haves and the have nots,” Monken said in reference to the current playoff system and Power Five schools comparing Group of Five schools. “There’s just a big difference from those schools and the others. You look at the facilities and the recruiting budgets and size of the staffs and the weight room and nutrition. There’s a big difference. We are a lot closer to the Power 5 schools than just about everybody else. This is a really great place with great facilities. What we don’t have is a bunch of NFL players walking around in that weight room. Those Power Five schools have a lot of NFL guys walking around in the weight room. That’s what separates them.”

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Recruiting: Andrew Bagley stays home, commits to Black Knights

Andrew Bagley grew up an Army football fan.

Bagley watched his first game from Michie Stadium at two years old.

Bagley’s father, Chad, was part of Army’s staff as director of football operations twice, most recently in 2014.

The James I. O’Neill senior’s lifelong dream has always been to attend West Point and kick for the football team.

When Bagley received an offer from Army last Thursday, it didn’t take him long to commit to the Black Knights.

Read my story on Bagley’s commitment here.

Army’s run on Tri-State-area specialists for the 2019 class continued Tuesday when Paul VI (Haddonfield, N.J.) punter Henry Westermann posted his commitment to Army. Westermann took an unofficial visit to West Point for the Air Force game earlier this month.

2019 Army football commits (47)

LB Tanner Addams, 6-3, 210, Monacan HS, Richmond, Va.: First offer – Army. Attended 2018 Black & Gold Game.
WR Matt Akuchie, 6-2, 189, St. Thomas Aquinas HS, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.: (COMMITTED, Sept. 10)
K Andrew Bagley, 5-10, 160, James I. O’Neill HS, Highland Falls, N.Y. (COMMITTED, Nov. 15)
QB Cade Ballard, 5-10, 195, Greeneville (Tenn.) HS: Other offers – Navy, Air Force, Georgia Southern, Tulane, Middle Tennessee State.
OL Dayton Baugh, 6-3, 255, Beechwood HS, Fort Mitchell, Ky.: (COMMITTED, August 1)
QB Maurice Bellan, 5-10, 178, Peddie School, Hightstown, N.J.: First offer – Army. Other offers – Navy, Air Force. Hudl profile – 4.46 40-yard dash (COMMITTED, June 28)
OL Connor Bishop, 6-3, 270, Archbishop Wood HS, Warminster, Pa.
LB Jalen Brooks, 6-foot, 220, Cardinal Gibbons HS, Raleigh, N.C.: Other offers – Navy
S Jimmy Ciarlo, 6-3, 190, St. Joseph Regional HS, Montvale, N.J.: Other offers – Syracuse, Old Dominion. (COMMITTED, April 13)
DE Reed Chandler, 6-4, 240, Conley HS, Greenville, N.C.: Other offers – Coastal Carolina (COMMITTED, July 27)
RB Shacori Collier, 5-10, 205, Many (La.) HS.: (COMMITTED, May 9)
RB Clayton Cribb, 5-10, 210, North Lincoln HS, Denver, N.C.: Other offers – (COMMITTED, May 22)
QB Alijah Curtis, 5-9, 180, McKinley HS, Canton, Ohio: First offer – Army (COMMITTED, July 29)
TE Simon Dellinger, 6-6, 225, Snider HS, Fort Wayne, Ind.: First offer – Army. Other offers – Navy, Air Force, Eastern Michigan, Ball State, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Kent State, Miami (Ohio), Ohio (COMMITTED, July 28)
TE Trace Dorminy, 6-4, 220, Camden County HS, Kingsland, Ga.: Tight end MVP at Army prospect camp. First offer – Army (COMMITTED, July 28)
S Kane Everson, 5-10, 170, Harrisburg (Pa.) HS: Scored 11 touchdowns, threw for three scores and made 50 tackles as a junior.
RB Bruno Forestieri, 5-11, 225, St. Pius X HS, Houston, Texas: Other offers – Air Force (COMMITTED, July 15)
RB Keiran Grant, 5-11, 175, Cuero (Texas) HS: Other offers – Texas State (COMMITTED, July 27)
LB Peyton Hampton, 6-2, 227, Davie HS, Mocksville, N.C.
RB Connor Holmes, 5-10, 183, Sayreville (N.J.) HS: (COMMITTED, Oct. 24)
T Lachlan Holt, 6-3, 270, Richmond Hill (Ga.) HS: Attended Knight On The Hudson, July 27 (COMMITTED, July 28)
DT Gerald Irons, 6-2, 260, Klein Oak HS, Spring, Texas: Other offers – Air Force, Oklahoma State, Indiana, Boston College, Kansas, North Texas, UTEP, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe (COMMITTED, June 28)
LB Spencer Jones, 6-1, 215, Vandegrift HS, Austin, Texas: Other offers – Air Force. (COMMITTED, July 27)
K Tyler Keltner, 6-foot, 155, Chiles HS, Tallahassee, Fla.
TE Ben Koch, 6-6, 240, Austin (Texas) HS: 2017 stats – 28 catches, 363 yards, 4 TD (COMMITTED, August 1)
DE Tyler Komorowski, 6-4, 240, Weir HS, Weirton, W.Va.: First-team all-state defensive end and pitcher. Also plays quarterback. Other offers – Michigan (preferred walk-on), Kent State. (COMMITTED, July 29)
OL Boobie Law, 6-4, 275, Pike HS, Indianapolis, Ind.:  (COMMITTED, Nov. 2)
LB-S Cole Mabry, 6-2, 190, Iowa City West HS, Iowa City, Iowa: Other offers – Iowa State (COMMITTED, July 29)
DB Michael Mack, 6-2, 180, Bullis HS, Potomac, Md.: Other offers – Air Force, Rice
S Deryan McDonald, 6-foot, 210, Choate Rosemary Hall HS, Wallingford, Conn.: First offer – Army (COMMITTED, July 29)
QB Alex Meredith, 6-foot, 185, A.L. Hanna HS, Anderson, S.C.: Other offers – Navy, Coastal Carolina (COMMITTED, June 6)
FB Nick Mell, 6-foot, 212, Stone Bridge HS, Ashburn, Va.: Other offers – Navy (COMMITTED, May 21)
DL Etuate Moala, 6-3, 270, JSerra Catholic HS, San Juan Capistrano, Calif.: (COMMITTED, Oct. 20)
TE Paxton Nayman, 6-5, 235, Creekview HS, Canton, Ga.: (COMMITTED, Nov. 15)
CB Boris Nicolas-Paul, 5-10, 175, Hillside (N.J.) HS: Other offers – Buffalo (COMMITTED, June 27)
QB Christian Parrish, 5-10, 200, Prince Avenue Christian HS, Bogart, Ga.: Other offers – Air Force, Georgia Southern (COMMITTED, June 28)
DL Dylan Perez, 6-2, 275, Columbus HS, Miami, Fla.: Other offers – Navy, Air Force, Miami (preferred walk-on), Buffalo, Florida Atlantic. (COMMITTED, Nov. 6)
CB Kolubah Pewee, 5-11, 160, Tottenville HS, Staten Island, N.Y.: Former Fordham commit (COMMITTED, August 7)
WR Ridge Polk, 5-10, 170, Cambridge HS, Milton, Ga.: Other offers – Air Force. (COMMITTED, July 12)
OL Dagen Rash, 6-2, 270, Belfry (Ky.) HS
OL Carson Shaffer, 6-3, 280, Prosper (Texas) HS: Other offers – Air Force. (COMMITTED, July 28)
DB D’Andre Tobias, 5-10, 170, Benedictine Prep, Richmond, Va.: First offer – Army. Other offers – Navy, Air Force
FB Cole Truex, 6-2, 226, Marin Catholic HS, Kentfield, Calif.: Other offers -  Navy, Air Force (COMMITTED, June 7)
DB Maxwell Williams, 5-10, 180, Millbrook HS. Raleigh, N.C.: Other offers – Appalachian State
QB Dedrick Wilson, 6-1, 195, Kenedy (Texas) HS: (COMMITTED, March 28)
LB Davis Wofford, 6-foot, 225, Robinson HS, Little Rock, Ark.: (COMMITTED, August 1)
TE Garrett Woodall, 6-5, 210, West Forsyth HS, Cumming, Ga.: Other offers -  (COMMITTED, July 11)

Commits by state: Texas (7); Georgia (6);  North Carolina (5); New Jersey (4); Florida (3); Virginia (3); California (2); Indiana (2); Kentucky (2); New York (2); Pennsylvania (2); Arkansas (1); Connecticut (1); Iowa (1); Louisiana (1); Maryland (1); Ohio (1); South Carolina (1); Tennessee (1); West Virginia (1)

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November 20 practice blog

Army’s first Top 25 rankings since 1996 are a testament to how hard the Black Knights have worked, quarterback Kelvin Hopkins said after Tuesday’s practice.

The Black Knights made their first appearance in the Associated Press (No. 23) and Coaches (No. 24) polls since the final 1996 rankings.

“It’s an honor to be mentioned among the teams that are there,” Hopkins said. “But, we are not done yet as a team. We know that. Our goal is not to get in it. It’s to finish in it. That’s something that we have been stressing for two years now, not just to get in it but to finish in it and finish the season there. We are approaching practice with our focus on Navy. We have to focus on our next opponent to stay where we are and keep moving up.”

Hopkins said being left out of last year’s final rankings after a 10-3 season last year fueled this season.

“It was definitely one of our team goals (finishing in the Top 25) and I think that was the only one up there that we didn’t get,” Hopkins said. “We were really upset and disappointed about it. That’s why we made it a point for it to be on that goal board this year and to finish that goal out. We made a great stride to get there but we want to keep pushing and try to finish there. That’s the real goal.”

Senior linebacker Kenneth Brinson said the goal of finishing in the Top 25, “was brought up collectively” by this year’s team.

“It’s great to be able to fulfill something that we wanted to do last year but it’s also great in sense that this group of guys was able to take the steps toward accomplishing what we set out,” Brinson said.

Army’s national ranking has been, “years in the making,” senior fullback Calen Holt said. Coach Jeff Monken planted the seeds as soon as he stepped foot in post in December 2014.

“That was one of his goals,” Holt said. “He wasn’t striving to be on par with every other team that has been here at Army. He came to build a legacy. My freshman year was probably the roughest (2-10 record). We didn’t see that. We were really close in a lot of games. Every year since, we’ve been reaping the benefits of our work.”

Junior linebacker and captain Cole Christiansen said finishing in the Top 25, “is a real special thing. That’s always something that I wanted to be a part of when I decided I wanted to play college football. It’s pretty cool to have a chance to do it.”

Tuesday was the first of back-to-back practices before an extended Thanksgiving leave. It was also the first time that Army had practiced in full pads in three weeks, Monken said. The Black Knights are idle until their annual rivalry with Navy on Dec. 8 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

Everyone knows we are three weeks out,” Brinson said. “Coach (Jay) Bateman was talking how important these next two practices are before we go off.

“I love going home. I’m not going to ever say no to that. But, we definitely recognize that we need to put in the work so we can make sure we can relax and take a break when we leave.”

After Wednesday’s early afternoon session, the Black Knights will not return to the practice field until Monday.

“There shouldn’t be any laying off the throttle,” Christiansen said. “Every single practice, we should be trying to get better. Whether the game is tomorrow or a month and half away, we should be having our best practices of the whole season.”

Army’s trio of senior fullbacks Holt, captain Darnell Woolfolk and Andy Davidson received their top choices during Branch Night last week. Holt, Woolfolk and Davidson will all  be field artillery officers following the lead of Mike Viti, their position coach.

“Just similar interests and guidance from our coach,” Holt said of the branch selection. “We all have a pretty close bond with each other. We are going to see how it works out with the three of us and seeing if we can post with each other.”

Coach Jeff Monken and Hopkins made the national media rounds before practice. Monken appeared on CBS Sports Radio’s Jim Rome Show. Hopkins was a guest of Newy Scruggs on NBC Sports Radio.

For more on Army football, follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Periscope and SoundCloud @salinterdonato. Started a Facebook page, solely for Army coverage. Here’s the link.

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The Polls: Army finally ranked by coaches and Associated Press

Army is back in the college football rankings for the first time since 1996.

The Black Knights earned rankings in the Coaches Poll and Associated Press poll after receiving votes for more than a month.

Army (9-2) enters the AP poll at No. 23 with 179 points after a 28-14 win over previously undefeated Colgate.

Army’s last AP ranking was No. 25 in the final 1996 poll. Army was ranked as high as No. 23 in the AP poll in 1996.

Earlier today, the Black Knights debuted at No. 24 in the Coaches Poll. this week following a 28-14 win over previously undefeated Colgate.

Army (9-2) received a season-high 97 points by the coaches, jumping four spots. Ironically, Army’s last ranking was No. 24 in the final 1996 Coaches Poll.

The Black Knights have won seven straight games and are idle until the Army-Navy game on Dec. 8 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

For more on Army football, follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Periscope and SoundCloud @salinterdonato. Started a Facebook page, solely for Army coverage. Here’s the link.

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Prediction time: Colgate

Army is a 11-point favorite against Colgate in its final game at Michie Stadium this season.

The Black Knights have won six straight games and 12 in a row at home.

Colgate (9-0) is ranked sixth in the Football Championship Subdivision and has allowed only 29 points in nine games.

Army will be by far the best offense that Colgate has faced this season.

Colgate hasn’t exactly faced the offensive juggernauts of the FCS. Holy Cross is the highest-ranked team in total offense (96th) that Colgate has faced. Colgate has played statistics five of the six worst offenses (Lafayette 119, Fordham 120, Georgetown 121, William & Mary 122, Bucknell 124) in FCS along with Cornell (100), Lehigh (107), New Hampshire (114).

Looked up scoring offenses among Colgate’s opponents and it’s much of the same with seven of the nine ranking from 112 to 123.

Sal Interdonato (Times Herald-Record Army football beat writer): Army 38, Colgate 13. Last week’s 31-13 win over Lafayette was a wake-up call. Army will score more points than Colgate has allowed all season.

Predictions from across the college football universe
Pete Fiutak (College Football News): Army 23, Colgate 17. Fiutak said on College Football News, “The Knights will get stuffed just enough to keep this close, but they’ll control the clock, swarm around (Colgate running back James) Holland, and generate enough defensive pressure to slip by the nation’s No. 6 team in a thriller that’ll come down to the final drive.”
Bill Connelly (SB Nation): Army 23, Colgate 7
David Kenyon (Bleacher Report): Army 24, Colgate 20. Kenyon said on Bleacher Report, “Last week, Colgate allowed its first touchdown since September 1. That is not a misprint. So, yes, Army should take this game quite seriously. The Black Knights will eventually pull one out, but Colgate will take the Cadets to the wire.”

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Tuesday Takeaways: Colgate Week

Bryce Holland’s 36-game starting streak will continue Saturday.

Jeff Monken said the senior center’s foot injury, which sidelined the captain for the second half of the Lafayette game last week, was a discomfort that Holland was playing through.

“It’s an injury that he’s had,” Monken said. “It kind of flared up. It’s not one of those things where it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, what are we going to do or (he needs) immediate surgery.’ It’s not anything that will probably need a procedure of anything.”

Monken said Holland will be in a boot the rest of the season when he is not practicing to take pressure off his foot.

Holland will be one of 24 players honored during Senior Day ceremonies prior to kickoff against Colgate.

Monken said Army will honor late cornerback Brandon Jackson with his classmates. Morna Davis, Jackson’s mother, will be a part of the festivities.

Junior slotback Kell Walker is expected to return after missing the Lafayette game. CBS Sports Network reported that Walker didn’t play last week due to a concussion.

Asked Monken for an update on sophomore slotback Fred Cooper, who was suspended from the team last month for attitude and effort.

“I think probably in his mind he’s left the program,” Monken said. “I can’t speak for Fred. We have moved on to where we are at. Early on when we suspended him, it was a suspension. I don’t know if he has a desire to play college football and perhaps, he does. If he does, I’m open to talking to him. Obviously, that’s not something that has taken place.”

The Black Knights offense was “absolutely” trying to score a touchdown in the final moments against Lafayette, Monken said. Lafayette dropped fullback Connor Slomka for a two-yard loss on Army’s final two plays.

“We had two negative yardage plays to end the game,” Monken said. “That was really disappointing. Something we look at and something we really pay attention to is trying to eliminate negative yardage plays. It’s one of the goals that we have for our offense to have four or fewer negative yardage plays each game. I think they are five teams in America averaging four or fewer negative yardage plays. We are one of them. I think it makes a difference in the game.”

Army’s defense had three missed tackles against Lafayette, Monken said.

VIDEO: Senior fullback and captain Darnell Woolfolk on playing his final game at Michie Stadium

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Quick Thoughts: Lafayette

Was on assignment and missed covering my first Army home game in 12 years on the beat, but from watching on DVR, Army’s 31-13 win over Lafayette was the Black Knights’ sloppiest game since their season-opener against Duke.

Penalties on Army’s opening offensive drive were a problem for the second straight week.

Army’s Fourth Quarter Warriors mentality has carried the team to many games over the last three seasons but it was Lafayette that finished strong in the final 15 minutes. Lafayette marched 75 yards on its final drive against a Black Knights’ defense that missed too many tackles. Sean O’Malley’s fifth straight completion – a 3-yard pass to fullback Will Eisler – capped the possession.

Army may have been running out the clock but two negative plays inside Lafayette’s 5-yard line certainly wasn’t the way it wanted the game to end.

Didn’t think starting quarterback Kelvin Hopkins would be playing on the final drive of a game that Army was favored by 45 points.

Wake-up calls or lessons learned shouldn’t be happening in the 10th game of the season. If Army plays lackluster against undefeated Colgate, ranked No. 6 in Division I-AA (FCS), the Black Knights’ 12-game winning streak may be in jeopardy.

Senior kicker John Abercrombie is 7-for-7 on field goals and has made a field goal in five straight games, which has got to be the most in my years on the beat.

Andy Davidson’s punt block, which deflected off his helmet, was the third of his career. The play made ESPN’s Pardon The Interruption Monday.


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Prediction Time: Lafayette

Army is a 45-point home favorite over Lafayette, its first of two straight Football Championship opponents.

The Black Knights defeated Lafayette 62-7 in the teams’ last meeting in 2016.

Army looks to extend its home winning streak to 12 games and captured its sixth straight win.

Sal Interdonato (Times Herald-Record Army football beat writer): Army 56, Lafayette 7: Only pressing question should be is how long Army will play its starters.

Predictions from across the college football universe
David Kenyon (Bleacher Report): Army 52, Lafayette 17. Kenyon writes on Bleacher Report, “Army has earned a place in the “Top Games” section thanks to a five-game winning streak that followed an overtime loss to Oklahoma. This is a program on a remarkable rise, and lower-division Lafayette won’t be stopping the Black Knights this weekend.”

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Army Football Podcast: Lafayette Week

Breaking down Army’s 17-14 win over Air Force with two-year captain Steve Anderson.

Discussion includes junior linebacker Cole Christiansen knack for making late-game plays, victory over Air Force first step in winning Commander in Chief’s trophy, watching Army-Air Force in Navy country, historical perspective of Black Knights’ current three-year run, looking ahead to Lafayette Saturday and Colgate next week.

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    Sal Interdonato

    Award-winning writer Sal Interdonato has been on the Army football beat since 2007. He'll take you inside the huddle and into the lives of the Black Knights. Read Full
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