Coast Guard seniors say goodbye on Saturday
New London - To see so many of his senior teammates performing at a high level - quarterback Jon Resch already has the single-season program record for passing yards (2,279) - brings back memories of where it all began for Coast Guard Academy's Parker Bateson.
Bateson, a senior linebacker for the Bears' football team, attended prep school for a year at New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, N.M., the city where a UFO was alleged to have crashed in 1947.
"The McDonald's is in a UFO shape and the street lights have alien faces," said Bateson, who was joined at NMMI by several future teammates, including Resch. "We're all like, 'Where are we?'
"Now, yesterday coach was talking about how this was the last game we're ever going to play. That's it for us our whole life. I've been playing since I was 7 and lived in California. It's a huge part of our life that's going to pretty much go away."
Coast Guard, 4-4 overall, 3-3 in the New England Football Conference Bogan Division, plays Maine Maritime Academy at noon Saturday in New London, the team's season finale. The Bears have the chance to finish above .500 for the first time since 2007.
Resch, who was injured in last Saturday's loss but was cleared to practice earlier in the week, is among the top-performing seniors. He has the Bears 327 yards short of the program record for offensive yards in a season (3,549, set in 2007) and is approaching the records for single-season touchdowns (19, Dan Warren, 1996) and career passing yards (4,459, Cory Anderson, 2002-05).
"It's the highest level of competition I've seen in person from someone playing quarterback. I mean, you hear about it ..." senior nose tackle John Manganiello said of Resch. "And our offensive line (of which four of five members are seniors) is crushing people."
Manganiello is in his second season as a starter, having earned first team All-NEFC Bogan Division honors last year. He has four tackles for a loss this season, one sack, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble.
Bateson, meanwhile, is the Bears' second-leading tackler with 67. He has six tackles for a loss, a sack and two pass breakups.
Bateson's roommate is Pat Meggers, a senior wide receiver who is leading the team with 740 receiving yards and six touchdowns, by far the best season of his career after converting to the receiver spot from running back.
Meggers set the single-game receiving record with 211 yards in a 59-0 victory over Fitchburg State on Sept. 29, including a 96-yard catch from Resch that set the program record for longest pass play.
"Pat hardly got in games last year," Bateson said. "I was his roommate; he was really frustrated. But he stepped up and had some really great games."
The team is captained by senior tight end Casey Paris and senior linebacker Curt Barrett.
Coast Guard coach Bill George said he used to be sadder on the final day of football season than he is now, after realizing the paths his football players take as officers.
"They go on to a new life. You don't feel as bad as you would at a normal place," George said. "Sometimes when you have them take a knee after the game, you look out. The freshmen look like teeny, tiny, little kids and then the rest of them look like officers."
Manganiello and Bateson both picked an overtime win this season over Worcester State, 31-28 on Oct. 20, as one of the highlights of their careers. It was the first overtime victory since they arrived at Coast Guard.
"The seniors have really taken control of the team," Bateson said. "We know going into the next week that we can beat anybody that steps on the field with us. ... We had confidence going into that overtime that we knew we were going to win.
"I just don't think it set in for me yet," Manganiello said of finishing his career. "It's 14, 15, 16 years I've been playing contact football. That's totally crazy. It's been a long ride."
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