Coast Guard has reason to celebrate
Bears defeat arch-rival Merchant Marine and finish with most wins since the 2007 season
Kings Point, N.Y. — The giddy Coast Guard Academy cadets who made the trip to the Merchant Marine Academy for Saturday's red, white and blue rivalry game were chanting, “Reg-gie! Reg-gie!” paying homage to linebacker R.J. Robiskie's late sack (his first name is Reginald).
That was followed by the “We believe that we will win” chant.
And then, moments later, after a joyous celebration, Admiral Karl Schultz, the commandant of the Coast Guard, presented coach Bill George with a challenge coin to mark the occasion of a decisive 2612 victory over Merchant Marine, in which the Bears allowed their opponents just 58 second-half yards to take home the Secretaries' Cup for the first time since 2014.
The win allowed Coast Guard to finish 7-3, the reverse of last year's 3-7 record, and marked the Bears' first victory on the Kings Point campus since 1996.
“It's about as awesome as it gets,” George said. “Ray (LaForte, offensive coordinator) kept telling me he thought the guys were tight, a little nervous. I noticed it last night when we got off the bus to go in the motel, I looked back and they were all serious. It's good. You want guys to be serious.”
The sights and sounds of the aftermath were made possible by this:
An interception by Coast Guard senior Jake Behne — also one of
the script-writers from last week's victory over WPI — gave the Bears the ball on the Mariners' 30-yard line with 35 seconds remaining in the first half.
The interception led to a 29-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Jones to Justin Moffatt, who dove forward into the end zone for the catch. Coast Guard led 13-10 at halftime, then scored on a 65-yard drive to start the second half on a 30-yard throw from Jones to freshman Damaso Jaime to make it 20-10.
The jubilance was also facilitated by this:
Jones, the junior quarterback, despite a rough start, kept his poise under the most hard-charging Merchant Marine blitzes and kept throwing. He was 22-for-42 for 269 yards and three touchdowns, picking apart the Mariners' defense (while also helping it at times with three fumbles and an interception).
Yet every time Jones had an opportunity to get the Coast Guard into the end zone, he did so unfailingly.
Coast Guard scored its final touchdown with 6:36 remaining on a 5-yard run by Jon Wagner, capping an 81-yard drive which took 5:10 off the clock and made the score 26-10.
The Bears then intercepted Merchant Marine's Krystian Abbott three times, one each for Mike Goldsworthy, Dan Dinges and Pat Crowley, to seal the victory, at the same time costing the Mariners (7-2, 5-2 in the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference) a share of the conference championship and a possible NCAA tournament bid.
The game, played between the two U.S. service academies for the 47th time, was broadcast by ESPN3 in honor of the Veterans Day holiday.
Jones was asked about what George said regarding the team being nervous to start.
“I think it was evident that I was,” he said, smiling, referring to a fumble on the Bears' second play from scrimmage. “I just got my hands sweaty out here in the cold and went to work.
“I knew this was going to be a good passing day for me. It was last year. I felt great. The offensive line kept me safe all day. I was just running around throwing balls to guys I knew would catch it. No one has been that safe against the Merchant Marine defense all year.”
Coast Guard's Moffatt finished with 10 catches for 102 yards and a touchdown — giving him 71 catches for the season, a Coast Guard record — and Jaime had eight catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns.
Behne, who last week ran a fake punt for a first down in Coast Guard's victory, finished with a career-high 18 tackles and the crucial interception against Merchant Marine. That gives Behne, a senior linebacker, a team-leading 103 tackles for the season.
“It's great, probably the best ending you could ask for,” Behne said. “It's definitely the most fun I've had playing football. It was an emotional day … just all day knowing it's the last time you're playing football. No one on this team has beat Kings Point until now.”
“The interception and the resulting touchdown was probably the most important thing that happened today,” Jones said. “I'm just so proud of this team. You've got to treat it just like another game. But to finish 7-3 against Kings Point on their home turf … ”
Added Jones: “Three years ago when I was getting recruited to come to the Coast Guard, if you would have told me you're going to be playing on ESPN one day … I'm blessed just to have this opportunity on Veterans Day. Thank you (to the veterans) and I'm glad we could show them a great football game.” email@example.com