Veterans to be honored at 'Battle at the Rock'

Newcomb-Shiprock football game will feature appreciation ceremony for those who served

Matt Hollinshead,
  • Players from both teams will distribute flags to spectators.
  • The jerseys of three former Shiprock players will be retired.
  • The Newcomb-Shiprock game kicks off at 7 p.m.
Shiprock coach and Marine veteran Eric Stovall is looking forward to tonight's "Battle at the Rock" football game between his squad and Newcomb, which will feature a ceremony honoring veterans.


FARMINGTON — When veterans gather for Friday’s “Battle at the Rock” football game between Shiprock and Newcomb for the third annual Chieftain Veteran Appreciation Ceremony at SHS, it’ll serve as a reminder of the traits the military and football share.

"Mental toughness, teamwork, trust, empathy for your fellow brother. Those traits that are learned in athletics, especially in the game of football, co-align with the military," said Shiprock coach Eric Stovall, who served in the Marines from 1986 to 1992. "We have two communities that are very proud of their military veterans."

The Chieftain and Skyhawk football players will help set the mood by walking out to the field together with flags in hand and distributing them to people in the stands. And with veterans sitting on the field, the jerseys of three former Shiprock football players will be retired, two of whom where killed fighting in Afghanistan.

“You see the correlation between football and military many times,” Newcomb athletic director Eric Arpelar said, using the Army-Navy college football game as an example. “You’ve got two teams that are going to battle. But the great thing about it is, these kids get to come together and get to play a great contest, and they all get to go home afterward, which is actually what we want from our troops. We want our troops to come home.”


Vern Lee, the Northern Navajo veterans committee’s agency commander and an Army veteran, said statistics show at least 2,800 veterans reside in the Shiprock and Newcomb areas.

Lee said he appreciations occasions like this one because of the hardships many of those men and women endure upon returning home.

“Men and women, they’ve suffered with PTSD. Others are obviously wounded and are having a hard time, and some of them are turning to homeless veterans. The veterans paid the price to give you the freedom,” said Lee, who served from 1972 to 1979 in the 101st Airborne Division.

Lee said he plans to be at Friday’s game to honor the veterans.

Arpelar said this event will bring the two communities closer together.

“We want to honor our veterans with this football game, give them a little bit of homage,” Arpelar said.

Matt Hollinshead covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.

This week's area football games

Kirtland Central at Snowflake (Ariz.), 6 p.m. Friday

Piedra Vista vs. Goddard, 7 p.m. Friday

Shiprock vs. Newcomb, 7 p.m. Friday

Aztec at Durango (Colo.), 7 p.m. Friday

Farmington at Del Norte, 7 p.m. Friday

Navajo Prep at Bernalillo, 7 p.m. Friday

Bloomfield at Bayfield (Colo.), 1 p.m. Saturday