Wed, Nov 29, 2006 (7:06 a.m.)

An eerie silence pervades in the locker room. Save for the occasional cough or the rasping of Velcro nervously being opened and closed, the defending champion Las Vegas Wildcats wrap themselves in thoughts of the battle to come.

"Understand what this game means," coach Chris Faircloth tells his players. "This game means something now. This game is very, very important. We either get to next week or we don't. There is no tomorrow to talk about what went wrong. We are going to kick the living crap out of them play after play. All of you on the sidelines all of you in the game you are going to go, and you are going to go and you are going to go."

Fifty young men, now gathered on one knee in a semicircle, eyes fixed with intense focus on their centurion, don't so much listen to as feel the inspiration in his exhortation to victory. It is not the inspiration of Vince Lombardi or Knute Rockne. It is the inspiration of a George "Freaking" Patton.

"Today is our day! This is our field! This is our black uniform we wear! Ain't nobody takin' anything from us! We're all a family. We're all so lucky to have each other. Let's go hit it."

Coach Faircloth exits amid a cacophony of cheers as everyone jumps up from that one knee and gathers in a seething mass. From the sea of undulating black shoulder pads and upraised helmets, a cry erupts, "Onetwothree, CATS!"

A near silence comes over the locker room again, only to be broken as those 50 young men head toward the battered red double doors leading to the field of battle, the staccato cadence of cleats on concrete echoing the footsteps of a Roman legion marching on Carthage.

And then, as those footsteps travel from the dim hallway out to the sunlit football field, a solitary mantra is heard: "No points, no yards. No points, no yards. No points, no yards. No points, no yards "

Final score: Las Vegas 38, Del Sol 8.


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