Bears ready to tackle newly aligned sched­ule

Coast Guard opens against Al­fred State, will save MMA for later

The Day - - SPORTS - By VICKIE FULKERSON Day Sports Writer

New Lon­don — In pre­vi­ous years, coach Bill Ge­orge said it was the ral­ly­ing cry from the Coast Guard Academy's open­ing con­vo­ca­tion on: “Beat Merchant Marine.”

It is a small col­lege ri­valry game, think Divi­sion III Army-Navy, which was held in Week 2 of the foot­ball sea­son, thus forc­ing both teams to cram a lot into the first few weeks of prac­tice. It changed the nat­u­ral learn­ing curve.

Wel­come to the newly aligned Coast Guard foot­ball sched­ule.

The Bears, 3-7 a year ago, open the sea­son at 7 p.m. to­day at Cadet Me­mo­rial Field, fac­ing Al­fred State (19). Merchant Marine still looms, but not un­til a na­tion­ally tele­vised game on Veter­ans Day in Week 10.

“It al­lows you to sit back and look a lit­tle more at fun­da­men­tals, not hav­ing a giant, giant mon­ster in Week 2,” said Ge­orge, en­ter­ing his 19th sea­son as Coast Guard's head coach. “You get ahead of your­self.

“It's just nat­u­rally built into an academy to have a big foot­ball ri­valry in Novem­ber. (In the past), you got cadets, you got peo­ple and it's al­most Au­gust. I think both teams strug­gle (with that setup). It's too big of an emo­tional game. … I talked to the SUNY Mar­itime coach (fol­low­ing a scrim­mage) and he said play­ing Merchant Marine af­ter we played

“It al­lows you to sit back and look a lit­tle more at fun­da­men­tals, not hav­ing a giant, giant mon­ster in Week 2. You get ahead of your­self.” BILL GE­ORGE, COAST GUARD COACH

them was the great­est thing.”

Al­fred State marks the first of three non­con­fer­ence games for Coast Guard be­fore the Bears be­gin play in what is the in­au­gu­ral sea­son of the New Eng­land Women's and Men's Ath­letic Con­fer­ence for foot­ball. Coast Guard opens NEWMAC play Sept. 23 at Nor­wich and will play league foes Catholic (Sept. 30), Spring­field (Oct. 7), Maine Mar­itime (Oct. 14), MIT (Oct. 21) and WPI (Nov. 4) be­fore meet­ing Merchant Marine on Satur­day, Nov. 11.

The Bears will open against Al­fred State with a new quar­ter­back in ju­nior Ethan Gold­camp, who re­places record-set­ting quar­ter­back Derek Vic­tory. They will be­gin the sea­son with­out se­nior wide re­ceiver Dar­ius Adams (ham­string), who led the New Eng­land Foot­ball Con­fer­ence with 1,054 yards and 13 touch­downs last year as a new­comer and was named the league's Of­fen­sive Rookie of the Year.

Coast Guard has one fresh­man listed in the start­ing lineup. Justin Mof­fatt, who spent last year at Naval Academy Prep in New­port, R.I., will start as a kick re­turner and is a backup wide re­ceiver. Mof­fatt is a grad­u­ate of Stein­bren­ner High School in Lutz, Fla., where he scored 17 touch­downs as a se­nior (9 rush­ing, 8 re­ceiv­ing) to lead the War­riors to a play­off berth.

The Bears re­turn top their re­ceivers from 2016 in Cody Bain (55 catches, 783 yards, 3 TDs), Adams and Chip Crow­ley (38 catches, 459 yards, 2 TDs) and their top two rush­ers in Jeff Porter and Cam Cec­chini, as well as three mem­bers of the of­fen­sive line.

Coast Guard has seven starters back on de­fense, in­clud­ing lead­ing tack­ler and strong safety Ryan Robertson (81 tack­les, 60 solo, 1 in­ter­cep­tion) and line­backer Jake Behne, a sec­ond team all-con­fer­ence se­lec­tion.

Al­fred State is in its fifth year at the Divi­sion III level and is com­pet­ing in the East­ern Col­le­giate Foot­ball Con­fer­ence for the first time. The Pi­o­neers will look to sopho­more quar­ter­back Eli Frantz to lead the of­fense.

“They're go­ing to put a lot of pres­sure on us. Their quar­ter­back is prob­a­bly their best ath­lete; we're go­ing to have to cor­ral him up a lit­tle bit,” Ge­orge said. “They hired a new de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor, so they might come out in some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent. We might be draw­ing up plays on the side­lines in the first se­ries.”

Over­all, hav­ing a new sched­ule for which to game plan adds some fun to the sea­son, Ge­orge said.

“I want a lot of em­pha­sis on fun this year,” the coach said. “I don't want us to drift away from fun. … I think this could be a real mar­quee league.” v.fulkerson@the­day.com

DANA JENSEN/THE DAY

Coast Guard Academy strong safety and se­nior co-cap­tain Ryan Robertson runs through a drill on the first day of prac­tice Aug. 7. The Bears open their sea­son at 7 p.m. Thurs­day against Al­fred State in New Lon­don.

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