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Busy sports weekend at Air Force as Army visits for football, hockey and boxing

November 1, 2017 Updated: November 1, 2017 at 9:53 pm
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Air Force Academy's Jordan HImley gets the puck past Army goalie Parker Gahagen to put AFA up 2-1 at the end of the second period Friday, January 27, 2017 at the Air Force Academy. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

Air Force and Army are bundling competitions this weekend at one location in what could become a new scheduling tradition.

At least that's the hope of hockey coach Frank Serratore.

"We've wanted to do that for the last 20 years," Serratore said. "We finally got it done last year up at Army. We re-did it this year."

The football game between the Falcons and visiting Black Knights at 1:30 p.m. Saturday will be the showcase event of the weekend at Falcon Stadium. Hockey games between the programs will be held Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 7:35 at Cadet Ice Arena.

There will also be a free-to-the-public boxing duel, featuring 12 bouts between the academies starting at 4:30 p.m. Friday at the Cadet Gym Boxing Room.

Pretty much the only thing left to do would be to move the football game - always held on the first Saturday of November - back a week to coincide with Veterans Day and into basketball season and let the hoops teams get in on the action.

But, baby steps.

The major step to building this weekend was Serratore convincing Army coach Brian Riley to move the annual hockey series from mid-January to early November last season. Serratore said Riley's preference was always to keep the series between the rivals in the second half of the season, but the opportunity for change presented itself last year when the Atlantic Hockey Association schedule had the teams meeting twice. Rather than bunching both into the second semester, Serratore said he volunteered the Falcons to travel first and play at West Point during the same weekend the Air Force football team was visiting.

This year they repeated the November scheduling, even though this will be the only meeting between the hockey teams.

"I hope we can continue to do it in the future," Serratore said. "I thought it was a pretty cool thing at West Point and I think it will make for a pretty cool weekend here this year as well."

The football game had sold 32,000 tickets ("and building," as noted by an Air Force spokesman) as of Wednesday afternoon and the hockey games had only a smattering of tickets remaining as of Tuesday.

The academy wasn't able to schedule the games any closer together in the day because much of the same personnel will be performing behind-the-scenes roles and logistically it wouldn't have been possible to wrap up the football responsibilities before about 5:45 p.m. and then take their place in advance for the 7:35 p.m. hockey game.

Army left an even larger gap last year, with the football game kicking off at noon and the puck dropping at 8:05 p.m.

"It would be nice if we could dovetail that a little tighter," Serratore said. "That's all right, we'll have a good crowd for both games."

The football game will include multiple aerial flyovers. Before the game there will be appearances by an A-10 Thunderbolt II, U2 Dragon Lady, F-16 Fighting Falcon and a B-1 Lancer over Falcon Stadium.

The academy warns that "residents in communities surrounding the Air Force Academy can expect increased air traffic and noise."

So, there will be jets, visiting military brass and multiple sports on display between the service academies.

Such a weekend, by the way, wouldn't be possible with Navy because the Midshipmen do not field a hockey team.

"They haven't figured out how to freeze water yet, I don't think, over at the Naval Academy," Serratore joked. "So this is our Commander-in-Chief's, we play Army for bragging rights."

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