Nothing rivals CGA-Kings Point football matchup

Coast Guard football coach Bill George can't wait to lead the Bears into their season opener against rival Kings Point on Saturday for the Secretaries'  Cup.
Coast Guard football coach Bill George can't wait to lead the Bears into their season opener against rival Kings Point on Saturday for the Secretaries' Cup.

New London — Coast Guard Academy coach Bill George was being asked about football rivalries. Which rivalry game, during his career as a player and coach, has been played with the most supreme passion and with the greatest implications?

Ithaca-Cortland State? (A game in which he played and coached, many times to decide an NCAA Division III berth).

Ohio State-Michigan? (George was a graduate assistant at Ohio State during the 1985 and 1986 seasons).

"For all the coaches, we've been here long enough, this is our rivalry," George said at Wednesday's team football luncheon, speaking of this week's season-opening rivalry game against Kings Point.

"Forget about everything else, this rivalry dominates all the others. This rivalry will be put on my gravestone."

Coast Guard takes on Kings Point, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Kings Point. The winner possesses the Secretaries' Cup, given jointly by the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Secretary of Transportation.

It is held at the beginning of the season instead of the end to accommodate both teams' conference schedules, a wrinkle which just so happens to keep the participants in a frenzy all summer long while waiting for the next season to begin.

Coast Guard won last year's game 10-8 in New London, as then-senior captain Pat Bennett ran back the opening kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown and later blocked a field goal attempt.

There's a photograph in this year's media guide of quarterback Jarrod Owens and and free safety Chris Izurieta, a pair of seniors, kissing the Secretaries' Cup. It was a dream the players hatched when they were just swabs.

"He was one of the first persons I met (at Coast Guard)," Owens said of his teammate. "It was during Swab Summer, we said, 'Let's get that cup. Let's kiss it.'

"It's one of the greatest feelings I've had my whole cadet experience, the highlight of my cadet experience. I look forward to doing it again. It would be really special to do it twice, too, especially senior year."

Even new Coast Guard athletic director Tim Fitzpatrick said Wednesday that he had his start date moved up to be officially on board in time for Saturday's game. He stood in the rain with George on Tuesday to watch practice.

The corps of cadets from both schools traditionally attend the game and march onto the field.

"When you're part of a military group, the games go all the way through the academies," said George, explaining why the military rivalry is perhaps a little bit different than most.

"The corps of cadets ... there's a lot of loyalty. You're close to your teammates, but also close to your classmates. It makes it a much deeper rivalry."

This is the 40th meeting between Coast Guard and Kings Point (0-1), with Kings Point leading the series 26-13. The Bears have not won at Captain Tomb Field since 1996, when the victory secured their first NCAA tournament berth. Coast Guard is 0-7 since then at Kings Point, including a double-overtime loss in 2009.

"I'm anxious right now, to be honest with you," Owens said. "It's my last game against Kings Point. There's electricity in the air. You can cut it with a knife it's so thick."

v.fulkerson@theday.com

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