Merchant Marine beats CGA 14-3 for the Secretaries' Cup

Kings Point, N.Y. — Coast Guard coach Bill George's opinion earlier in the week was that this rivalry game, played at the beginning of the season, not the end, threatened to “dwarf” the other nine games with its magnitude.

Now, following a 14-3 disappointment Saturday at Merchant Marine, in which the Bears were outrushed 347-13 and threw two crucial interceptions, it will be up to the Coast Guard Academy football team to keep this one in perspective.

No problem, said senior strong safety Joe Rizzardi.

“In the end of the day, I think it's another game,” Rizzardi said. “Yeah, it would be great to be 2-0. But after Catholic (next week's game, in Washington, D.C.), we've got those seven games (in the New England Football Conference).

“One of those guys (Merchant Marine) said, 'Good luck going 10-0 now,' but we can still make it to the playoffs. We can show it to Merchant Marine in eight weeks when we're playing one extra Saturday and they're turning in their pads.”

For this Saturday, anyway, the day belonged to Merchant Marine, which was opening the season but appeared sharp, executing the triple-option without losing a fumble and keeping Coast Guard quarterback Derek Victory, who hurt the Mariners last year, in check.

Skyler Stone had two interceptions for Merchant Marine, one at the 1-yard-line with Coast Guard threatening to tie the game on second-and-goal from the 6 in the second quarter, and once on a ball thrown deep by Victory on the second play of the fourth quarter.

Victory was 14-for-29 for 149 yards, breaking Coast Guard's career completions record of 425 with his 11th of the day, a 19-yard throw to Jordan Groff.

Unlike last season, however, when Victory threw three touchdowns to lead the Bears to a 42-31 come-from-behind win over the Mariners in New London, Coast Guard was held to just a 32-yard field goal by Tyler Henning with 1 minute, 8 seconds left in the first half.

Coast Guard trailed 7-3 at halftime, with George choosing to take Henning's points rather than go for it on fourth-and-1 from the 14 to try to swing the momentum in the Bears' favor.

It never happened, as Merchant Marine took the ball to start the second half and drove 71 yards in 12 plays before Devar Jones scored on a 3-yard run. That drive took 5:51 off the clock.

Coast Guard then went two straight series without a first down, netting minus-3 yards, and never really got in a groove.

“All the credit goes to the kids,” Merchant Marine coach Mike Toop said, asked what accounted for his team's crispness despite playing its first game. “They made some big plays, they made some real big plays. … I remember very vividly what (Victory) did to us last year.”

Merchant Marine fumbled four times, but recovered all of them.

Jordan Groff caught six passes for 66 yards for Coast Guard and Carter Provost two for 47. Henning, the punter, averaged 44.4 yards over seven kicks to keep the Bears in good field position and linebacker Kyle Wood made nine tackles to lead the defense. New London High graduate Brendan McNeil had the Bears' only sack.

Coast Guard defeated Anna Maria 34-6 in last week's season opener.

“I don't think there's a secret to not winning. We didn't move the ball,” George said. “If we have two picks and if they run the triple-option and don't fumble the ball, then they did a better job than us. … I'm disappointed in the offense. You don't win that way.

“… You can't (dwell on it). You've got to move forward. If they think this is going to be the biggest disappointment in their lives, it isn't. When you make something so massive, it's a massive cliff you're falling off when you lose. But we know we're better than this.”

v.fulkerson@theday.com

Twitter: @vickieattheday

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