By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA – Navy beat Army 31-17 as sophomore slot back John Howell, a 2009 alumnus of Lansdale Catholic High School, helped break a record for Navy in the 111th meeting between the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis and the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., Saturday, Dec. 11 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

The latest edition of one of college sports’ marquee matchups wasn’t pretty, perhaps because of long layoffs for both teams. The Army-Navy game, which drew a crowd of more than 69,220 fans, was moved back on the schedule to separate it from the conference title games, so the Cadets and Midshipmen hadn’t played a meaningful snap since Nov. 20.

It showed right away when the Navy Blue and Gold and the Army Black Knights swapped turnovers in the first four offensive plays. {{more}}

Kicker Joe Buckley, a 2007 alumnus of Malvern Preparatory School in Malvern, finally struck for Navy with a 36-yard field goal. After the defense held, Navy senior quarterback Ricky Dobbs found Howell alone and hit him in stride. Howell ran 77 yards for the touchdown, the longest passing score in series history.

As the final seconds ticked off the clock in the fourth quarter, players on both sidelines came together at midfield to shake hands. Then the Midshipmen headed to celebrate with their classmates in the corner of the end zone, a scene that’s become all too familiar for Army.

After the game, Navy senior offensive tackle Jeff Battipaglia, a 2007 alumnus of St. Joseph’s Preparatory School in Philadelphia, joined Howell in reflecting how their Catholic schooling in the Philadelphia Archdiocese prepared them to be leaders at the Naval Academy – both on and off the football field.

“Coming from a Jesuit high school, their big motto was ‘becoming men for others,'” Battipaglia said.

“That really struck me,” he said. “It really laid the foundation for me. It’s a great opportunity to serve the country, to be a man for others.”

Howell praised his football coach at Lansdale Catholic, James Algeo, for encouraging the players to also focus on their faith and family.

Trying “to lead for others,” and ultimately, being “‘followers of God,’ that’s huge for us,” Howell said.

Army’s Raymond Maples, a freshman running back and a 2009 alumnus of West Catholic High School in Philadelphia, rushed for 66 yards on 13 carries.

“It hurts to lose,” Maples said. “I played well, but any other running back could have done the same thing. I was just lucky to be in the game.”

Also on the Navy roster from the Philadelphia Archdiocese: junior defensive end Neil Doogan, a 2007 alumnus of St. Joseph’s Prep, sophomore fullback Kevin Eckel, a 2008 alumnus of Archbishop John Carroll High School in Radnor and freshman linebacker Michael Huf, a 2010 alumnus of Cardinal O’Hara High School in Springfield.

Both teams lost to Air Force this season, ending the Midshipmen’s seven-year grip on the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy awarded to the top service academy.

But another victory over Army – the game that matters most on the schedule every year – certainly helped to ease that sting.

Army is still headed to its first bowl game since 1996, the Armed Forces Bowl on Dec. 30 in Dallas against Southern Methodist University. Navy plays San Diego State in the Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 23.

CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at 215-587-2468 or