Coast Guard defensive backs Goldsworthy, Coco learned well on the fly
New London — Mike Goldsworthy, making his first career start for the Coast Guard Academy football team last week at right cornerback, had all his instructions from defensive backs coach Dom Rogers, who spent the summer serving a fellowship with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Rogers told Goldsworthy to focus on the pass. On the first play from scrimmage, Goldsworthy said, he came flying in to try to stop an apparent reverse, allowing the receiver to get behind him. The pass, from Nichols quarterback Tony Martignoli, went for an incompletion.
"I thought they were going to run a trick play 80 yards for a touchdown," said Goldsworthy, a sophomore who was starting in place of the injured Will Daniels.
Goldsworthy, however, settled in. A freshman, Colby Coco, settled in as well, at strong safety, after an early injury to senior captain Ryan Robertson. Goldsworthy and Coco each had interceptions, as the Bears finished with six sacks, three interceptions and a shutout in a 13-0 victory over Nichols.
Coast Guard is 2-1 heading into this weekend's game at Norwich (0-3) in Northfield, Vt., the Bears' first New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference game in history.
"I would say the guys up front," said Goldsworthy of what allowed the defense to have so much success against Nichols. "I don't know if they set a record or almost set a record (in sacks). There were guys killing the quarterback all day. ... After the first couple plays, the total mood of the team just changed."
While Goldsworthy had at least a few days notice with Daniels' injury coming midweek, Coco didn't have many practice repetitions. His parents were watching online back home in Kirkland, Wash., when Coco got called from the sideline in the first quarter to play in his first collegiate game and intercepted Martignoli in the second quarter.
"Matt O'Donnell (senior free safety) was keeping me lined up in the right position every play," Coco said at Wednesday's team media luncheon. "I had some type of clue, but I was relying on the upperclassmen. ... I'm only usually with the twos (in practice); I'm usually with Mike."
Coast Guard coach Bill George said the performance by Goldsworthy, who also had a tackle for a loss in the game, didn't take him as much by surprise.
"But having a freshman at safety against a team that throws 40 times a game?" George said of Coco. "You have a safety playing in a 7-0 game for most of the time. But as the game gets going, there's not much you can do ... when it's time you've got to step up. They have some natural ability that allows them to be a defensive back in the first place."
The theme will be somewhat the same this week, with Daniels and Robertson still waiting to be cleared as of Wednesday. In addition, running backs Jeff Porter and Mike Kenney were injured against Norwich and will be replaced by freshmen Chris Gardner (5-foot-10, 210 pounds) and Zach Stone (5-10, 180), who will join starter Cam Cecchini.
"I feel like the defensive backs have a great bond," said Goldsworthy, who is from Jamison, Pa., and played for Central Bucks South High School. "We back each other up. ... Every football player and coach knows football is a tough game. Players are going to get hurt and it's ingrained in their mind they might have to go in. The key is not to get nervous, just play."
"It kind of reminded me of high school," said Coco, who played defensive back and some receiver at Lake Washington High School in Kirkland, Wash. "When I started my first game as a sophomore, I was really nervous, but then I have a job to do along with everyone else."
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