It's the week to choose sides.
It's either, "Go Army, beat Navy" or "Go Navy, beat Army."
Elias Larry, a 19-year-old starting cornerback for Navy who played high school football at Chatsworth Sierra Canyon and Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, got to experience his first Army-Navy game last season as a freshman.
"I had always heard how big a game it was but didn't understand until I got there," he said. "On the bus I looked at everyone outside the stadium and Army fans are yelling at the bus. When I went through the tunnel for warmups, it was different, all these cameras, military personnel, Secret Service. I was in awe for a little bit taking it all in. I had all kinds of emotions. It was a full stadium. It was something you dream about."
On Saturday in Philadelphia, he'll be starting for the first time in the Army-Navy game, when both sides bus the entire student bodies to the game.
How Larry ended up at Navy is an amazing story.
He graduated from Sierra Canyon in the spring of 2021, the COVID-19 season when high school football in California was only allowed during March and April. Seniors faced severe recruiting hardships. No one was allowed to take recruiting visits and options became limited. He had offers from all the service academies but picked Navy even though he had never visited the campus in Annapolis, Md., or met with coaches in person. Everything was done by video calls.
"I trusted God having a plan for me," he said. "Whatever this place presents, I'm going to have to get through it. It was a rough first day."
On the first day of boot camp, they cut his hair and yelled at him for anything and everything.
"It was culture shock," he said. "I was fresh out of the regular world."
Thanks to his high school coaches and parents, he was prepared. He made it through those early weeks of training and has become an important Navy football contributor with a team-leading two interceptions this season. Soon he'll decide what he wants to do during his mandatory Navy commitment when he graduates. Joining the Marines is likely, and don't count out football. He's 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds and has speed and strength.
His parents, Lawrence and Julie Larry of Palmdale, should be up for parents of the year. Their other son, Ezekiel, is a freshman football player at Yale. Their daughter, Eliyah, is a freshman volleyball player at Sierra Canyon. Academics is a must for the whole family.
"Excellence was always expected of me," Elias said.
Elias always had a higher grade average than Ezekiel in high school, but things have changed.
"Navy is definitely harder than Yale," Elias said.
The whole Larry family will be in Philadelphia on Saturday rooting for Elias at the Army-Navy game, which has several other Southern California natives participating. One player on Army is Elias' former Sierra Canyon teammate, defensive lineman Caden Harman. The two were home for Thanksgiving and attended a Sierra Canyon practice last week. Harman was supposedly talking a little Army smack.
Sierra Canyon coach Jon Ellinghouse, whose team won the Southern Section Division 2 championship, said, "It's really a cool thing to see former players go out and get in places where it's tough and challenging academically while creating leaders of the world."
Being on the winning side come Saturday will be a lot more fun than losing, but everyone understands when Army plays Navy, it's unlike any other football game. When the final second runs out, everyone says thank you to the men and women at both academies for serving and protecting the United States of America.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.