Jones has big night as Coast Guard rolls 33-7 in opener

Coast Guard's Justin Moffatt (8) breaks free for a big gain during the Bears' 33-7 victorty over the University of New England in their season opener on Thursday night in New London. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
Coast Guard's Justin Moffatt (8) breaks free for a big gain during the Bears' 33-7 victorty over the University of New England in their season opener on Thursday night in New London. (Dana Jensen/The Day)

New London — His Coast Guard Academy teammates have been trying to impress upon quarterback Ryan Jones that winning and losing isn't solely on his shoulders and not to take things so personally.

Try telling that to a guy who has lost six straight football games as a starter, going 0-for-6 after taking over for injured starter Ethan Goldcamp a year ago.

No man is an island. But Jones maybe felt like it.

“You can't really say you've done anything in football until you've won a game,” Jones said Thursday night after his first career victory. “That's a huge weight off my shoulders. … I'm a big worrier. I was nervous, but I think I was a good amount of nervous. I could feel my heartbeat in my stomach.”

Jones, the starter from Day One this season, made his first win one to remember, dotting a 33-7 victory over the University of New England with quarterback highlights.

Jones finished 23-for-39 with 336 yards and two touchdowns passing and rushed 16 times for 75 yards and a touchdown for 411 total yards and three touchdowns.

Jones had 221 yards passing as the Bears took a 17-7 lead at halftime, scoring on their first three drives en route to splintering their six-game losing streak.

Coast Guard had 512 yards offense and held the time of possession against New England, a first-year varsity program.

It was Jones' second 300-plus-yard passing game, dating back to last year's season-ending 48-23 loss to Merchant Marine.

“We tried to pick up where we left off,” Coast Guard coach Bill George, beginning his 20th season, said. “But guys are out on boats (in between); it's not a continual flow. For us, it's a big pickup. It's (Jones) from the chin up. You can't get into a guy's head. You've got to credit him.

“It's 50-50, Ray (LaForte, offensive coordinator) and him. Ray is saying, 'I'm going to make you better and (Jones) is saying, 'I want to get better.'”

Justin Moffatt had nine catches for 157 yards and Liam Middleton and Chris Gardner each had touchdown catches. Cole Austin kicked a pair of field goals for the Bears. Pat Crowley led the defense with eight tackles and Colby Coco had an interception.

Coast Guard was unstoppable on offense in the first half until the Bears were halted at the New England 3-yard line with 1 minute, 10 seconds remaining in the second quarter.

After a Titus Creamer sack to stop New England on its first possession, Coast Guard drove to the Nor'Easters 19-yard-line, settling for a 36-yard field goal by Austin.

Jones threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Middleton for a 10-0 lead with 3:28 left in the first quarter on a drive which also featured a 41-yard Jones completion to Moffatt.

The Bears started the second quarter with a 12-play, 88-yard drive on which Jones showcased the running style of a bulldozer, finishing with four carries for 21 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown run. Jones also completed 3 of 7 passes on the scoring drive, including a spectacular 39-yard catch by Middleton in double coverage over the middle.

New England's next possession was sparked by a 38-yard completion from quarterback Brian Peters to Ryan Gaboury at the Coast Guard 24, leading to a 9-yard touchdown from Peters – the former Darien quarterback, who led the Blue Wave to the 2016 Class LL championship and the No. 1 ranking in The Day's Top 10 Poll – to Devon Charles.

Coast Guard ended the half by driving from its own 13-yard line to the New England 3 before Jones was dragged down for a loss, taking more than six and a half minutes off the clock.

And the beginning of the second half brought more of the same as the Bears received the kickoff and drove for a touchdown to make it 24-7, capping it with a 19-yard pass from Jones to Gardner, a sophomore, which gave Jones 293 yards passing with 11:52 still remaining in the third quarter.

“Two of our scoring drives wouldn't have happened if not for (sophomore running back) Jon Wagner breaking seven tackles on one play or Liam Middleton catching a ball in double coverage or Justin Moffatt running past everybody. … And hats off to the line. They played their hearts out tonight.

“I'll be happy until I walk into film tomorrow and see my mistakes. Then you have to drop the last one and move on to the next one. I've got a lot to improve on if I'm going to beat anybody else.”

v.fulkerson@theday.com

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