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Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona describes atmosphere and energy of Army-Navy game

Related: Joe Cardona named the Patriots’ 2020 Salute to Service Award nominee

New England Patriots v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Army. Navy. Two words that will get any football fan excited. The battle between the Black Knights and the Midshipmen is one of the biggest rivalries in sports, and one that New England Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona is quite familiar with.

While things will look quite different this year due to Covid-19, fans will have a chance to be back in the stands next year for the 122nd matchup between the clubs. For those who want to check the event off their bucket list, now is your chance.

To help fans celebrate the tradition and rivalry of “America’s Game,” USAA has launched the “Army-Navy House” sweepstakes. To enter, visit ArmyNavyHouse.com and upload a photo that’s shows off your Army or Navy fandom, or your favorite Army-Navy Game memory. One Army and One Navy winner will each win a trip (including flight, hotel, game tickets) to the game, courtesy of USAA.

“The atmosphere is really hard to describe,” Cardona, who is a Naval Academy graduate and currently serves as a Lieutenant in the Navy, told Pats Pulpit this week. “It’s this surreal, patriotic environment, but it’s also, it’s pure college sport, pure amateur, double athletic, like, just pure American college football. It’s hard to discern and being a part of a lot of big games, Army Navy really stood out to me at the time because it was so hard fought and we knew going into those games, it was going to be a fight every single play between the whistles.

“Of course, neither team is penalized very much. Between the whistles, you had to be ready to take on the guy across from you and to really hold your own,” Cardona added. “But you know, there was no animosity involved in it and a lot of it was really, as a Navy guy, I want to see this army guy and the fight that's with him. He wants to see the same fight in Navy because one day we might depend on each other. So of course we want to make it as hard on each other as we can now, so that when it comes time on other fields on other days, we’re prepared, we’re ready to stand arm in arm.”

Cardona has played in a lot of big throughout his six-year career in New England. He has snapped for the Patriots in three Super Bowls, winning Super Bowl 51 in 2016-17, as well as Super Bowl 53 in 2018-19 — games which he compared to Army-Navy.

“I’d say those are really the only comparables, Super Bowls and AFC Championship games,” Cardona said. “Ultimately, the NFL takes a little bit of the purity out, but it’s entertainment and show business and a lot of ways outside of the game. However, when you’re at an Army-Navy game, it’s a pure display of America and a lot of that glitz and glam isn't really there.

“The atmosphere is absolutely electric,” he added. “You have 4,000 screaming cadets and 4,000 screaming midshipmen in the stands, usually a packed house outside of that, but this year, it’ll still be that special environment, maybe even all the more special being there at West point and only having the brigade of midshipmen and the quarter cadets there. You honestly can’t ask for a better environment.”

The 121st matchup between the rivals will take place on the campus at West Point for the first time since 1943. In last year’s contest, Navy snapped a three-game losing streak to Army, running the ball on 55 of 56 plays for 395 yards in a 31-7 victory.

“You can’t ask for a better match up between the two teams,” Cardona said. “Everybody knows what the play’s going to be there — it’s going to be some form of option. Everybody knows that you’re going to play as hard as they can. Both schools get pretty even recruits that come from similar backgrounds and similar places. You know what’s going to happen on each play and it’s just, whoever can come out and hit the other person as hard as they can and advance the ball one or two yards more that comes out on top.

“It is a special, special environment that. It really transcends the sport with the amount of people that watch it and the amount of pride that’s taken on it.”

As for who Cardona is picking to win Saturday’s contest, his answer should come as no surprise.

“I mean, Navy by 100, obviously,” joked Cardona. “Well, ultimately, Army’s got a good team at 7-2. Navy has had some ups and downs throughout the season but realistically, I know that’s a tough team and, you know, with this game, you can throw out the records.

“It’s going to be a hard fought game, it’s going to be a lot of fun to watch,” Cardona said. “But, you have to consider that, I think, Navy’s played a lot better opponents throughout the year. [Navy’s] going to come out and be ready to play... I will take Navy — as a specialist — to win with a game-winning kick, so let’s go with game-winner, 24-21, Navy over Army.”

Make sure to tune in to the 121st matchup between Army and Navy on Saturday, December 12th at 3:00pm EST on CBS. Also, make sure to visit ArmyNavyHouse.com for your chance to win!