Colletti's block provided highlight material for Coast Guard football's freshman class

New London — Until Saturday, the freshmen on the Coast Guard Academy football team were still freshmen: learning to balance collegiate X's and O's with chemistry and at times seemingly insurmountable military matters while getting by on the field through sheer talent.

And then Jared Colletti helped mark the freshmen's arrival to the 2019 football season in a 20-14 double-overtime victory over Catholic, authoring one of the game's highlights.

Colletti blocked a 38-yard field goal attempt by Catholic's Fabrizio Reilly in double overtime which gave the Bears (4-1, 1-1 New England Men's and Women's Athletic Conference) their final opportunity, with Coast Guard running back Jon Wagner sprinting through a SUV-sized hole for a game-winning 12-yard touchdown.

"Last week, I went on scout team," said Colletti, who is a member of several other of Coast Guard's special teams, but had never blocked kicks before. "I was getting off the edge. I got a couple (blocks) in practice. ... Right before that kick, a couple guys came up to me and said, 'This is your shot. Go get it.' I came off the left side. It was a great feeling."

Colletti, listed at 5-foot-9, 175 pounds, is a running back by trade.

As a junior at Palisades High School in Kintersville, Pa., Colletti rushed for 1,122 yards and 14 touchdowns, being voted all-conference. He repeated all-league honors as a senior, running for 1,246 yards and 16 touchdowns and adding three touchdowns receiving in addition to hitting 58 of 60 extra points and 3 of 3 field goals as the team's placekicker.

So far this season, he has played mainly on the Bears' kick return and punt return teams, while getting into the mix occasionally on offense. He was added to Coast Guard's punt coverage team, downing a fourth-quarter punt by teammate Liam Middleton all the way at the Catholic 1-yard line.

Coast Guard next plays NEWMAC opponent Springfield at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Cadet Memorial Field.

Colletti, as did some of his fellow freshmen, played last season at the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport, R.I., earning a starting role there alongside several Division I recruits headed to Navy.

Other freshmen listed on the depth chart for Coast Guard this season are offensive lineman Kevin Johnson, kicker Finnegan Hall and linebackers Andrew Schad and Connor McGuire. Defensive lineman Andrew Rizzo and defensive back Jacob Wagner follow their brothers to the academy, while quarterback Tafari Wall was formerly a Division II signee before deciding on Coast Guard.

Colletti and Rizzo, who is from head coach Bill George's home town of Glens Falls, N.Y., said at Wednesday's team luncheon that spending a year prepping at NAPS last season, while originally not seen as good news, helped them acclimate themselves athletically and militarily.

"Looking back, it's the best thing that could have happened," Colletti said. "Definitely going to prep school helped understanding the military life a little more. (Coast Guard is) unlike going to a normal school.

"... The boys on the team are also helping us out, giving us the tricks of the trade. You can go down to football and forget about everything and right when you're out of practice, you pick it back up. It was quicker (to get used to) this year than last year. After the first week, you pick it up."

Rizzo agreed, saying NAPS was a "picture perfect" idea of what to expect at Coast Guard. Rizzo's  brother James, who is seven years older, was a defensive back for the Bears and a member of the Class of 2016.

"Originally I wanted nothing to do with it," said Rizzo, listed at 6-3, 240 pounds. "(When James was here) I was young. I was hanging out with my friends doing what they were doing. Then I started thinking, not many 22 year olds can say they came to a place (like Coast Guard). ... We tried not missing (a game when his brother played). I came to a lot of home games."

George calls this group of freshmen still "on the outskirts," but expects them to contribute mightily in the future.

"We've got some good freshmen here," said George, who reiterated that the playing time at NAPS helped the players who came from there a great deal.

"They're a year older, they have a year of Division I weight training (at NAPS)," George said. "The rigors of the academics and military obligations does not squish them like a kid out of high school. ... (Colletti) had a lot of yards in high school. He was very quick. I was a little surprised how he matched up with the Navy players. He was their go-to guy. I'm not surprised at his success here. These guys have played college football."

v.fulkerson@theday.com

 

 

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