Coast Guard ready to tackle its newly aligned football schedule
New London — In previous years, coach Bill George said it was the rallying cry from the Coast Guard Academy's opening convocation on: “Beat Merchant Marine.”
It is a small college rivalry game, think Division III Army-Navy, which was held in Week 2 of the football season, thus forcing both teams to cram a lot into the first few weeks of practice. It changed the natural learning curve.
Welcome to the newly aligned Coast Guard football schedule.
The Bears, 3-7 a year ago, open the season at 7 p.m. Thursday at Cadet Memorial Field, facing Alfred State (1-9). Merchant Marine still looms, but not until a nationally televised game on Veterans Day in Week 10.
“It allows you to sit back and look a little more at fundamentals, not having a giant, giant monster in Week 2,” said George, entering his 19th season as Coast Guard's head coach. “You get ahead of yourself.
“It's just naturally built into an academy to have a big football rivalry in November. (In the past), you got cadets, you got people and it's almost August. I think both teams struggle (with that setup). It's too big of an emotional game. … I talked to the SUNY Maritime coach (following a scrimmage) and he said playing Merchant Marine after we played them was the greatest thing.”
Alfred State marks the first of three nonconference games for Coast Guard before the Bears begin play in what is the inaugural season of the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference for football. Coast Guard opens NEWMAC play Sept. 23 at Norwich and will play league foes Catholic (Sept. 30), Springfield (Oct. 7), Maine Maritime (Oct. 14), MIT (Oct. 21) and WPI (Nov. 4) before meeting Merchant Marine on Saturday, Nov. 11.
The Bears will open against Alfred State with a new quarterback in junior Ethan Goldcamp, who replaces record-setting quarterback Derek Victory. They will begin the season without senior wide receiver Darius Adams (hamstring), who led the New England Football Conference with 1,054 yards and 13 touchdowns last year as a newcomer and was named the league's Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Coast Guard has one freshman listed in the starting lineup. Justin Moffatt, who spent last year at Naval Academy Prep in Newport, R.I., will start as a kick returner and is a backup wide receiver. Moffatt is a graduate of Steinbrenner High School in Lutz, Fla., where he scored 17 touchdowns as a senior (9 rushing, 8 receiving) to lead the Warriors to a playoff berth.
The Bears return top their receivers from 2016 in Cody Bain (55 catches, 783 yards, 3 TDs), Adams and Chip Crowley (38 catches, 459 yards, 2 TDs) and their top two rushers in Jeff Porter and Cam Cecchini, as well as three members of the offensive line.
Coast Guard has seven starters back on defense, including leading tackler and strong safety Ryan Robertson (81 tackles, 60 solo, 1 interception) and linebacker Jake Behne, a second team all-conference selection.
Alfred State is in its fifth year at the Division III level and is competing in the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference for the first time. The Pioneers will look to sophomore quarterback Eli Frantz to lead the offense.
“They're going to put a lot of pressure on us. Their quarterback is probably their best athlete; we're going to have to corral him up a little bit,” George said. “They hired a new defensive coordinator, so they might come out in something completely different. We might be drawing up plays on the sidelines in the first series.”
Overall, having a new schedule for which to game plan adds some fun to the season, George said.
“I want a lot of emphasis on fun this year,” the coach said. “I don't want us to drift away from fun. … I think this could be a real marquee league.”
2017 Coast Guard Football Schedule
Aug. 31 Alfred State 7 p.m.
Sept. 9 at Union 1 p.m.
Sept. 16 Nichols 1:30 p.m.
Sept. 23 *at Norwich U. 2 p.m.
Sept. 30 *Catholic 1:30 p.m.
Oct. 7 *Springfield 1:30 p.m.
Oct. 14 *at Maine Maritime noon
Oct. 21 *MIT 1:30 p.m.
Nov. 4 *at WPI noon
Nov. 11 *Merchant Marine TBA
* NEWMAC game
Note: Merchant Marine game will be televised live in ESPN family of networks
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