BRAVEST FIRED UP FOR SHOWDOWN VS. COPS

By NEIL GRAVES
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May 12, 2003 -- There could be a "Rocky" moment Friday night when New York's Bravest and their NYPD rivals lock horns in their annual football confrontation.

After all, the firemen have had their clocks cleaned for nine straight years in the Fun City Bowl against the powerful NYPD gridders.

But with a victory Friday, the blazebusters could end the streak - not to mention knock off the defending champs - and advance to their first-ever league title game.

This is heady stuff for a team that was decimated by the 9/11 terrorist attacks. At last year's game, a 10-0 loss to the NYPD, the pain was obvious.



"We lost 22 ballplayers [on 9/11]," said personnel director Pudgie Walsh, who turned in his coaching bullhorn in 2000 after 28 years with the team. "Nine were still active."

The 12 teams in the National Public Safety League, from L.A. to Orlando, play six-game schedules. After getting waxed 41-3 in their opener at Phoenix, the FDNY has gone unbeaten and is 4-1.

But the FDNY brain trust is refusing to look beyond the NYPD, which on the eve of the 31st annual showdown holds a dominating 21-9 advantage. "We're always underdogs against that team," said Walsh. "We haven't scored a point off them in two years."

Kickoff is 8 p.m. Friday at Farrell HS on Staten Island.





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