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The QB job goes to Coast Guard freshman Joe Armentrout

New London — Freshman Joe Armentrout made his debut for the Coast Guard Academy football team in a rather unenviable situation, making his debut as quarterback in the midst of a 60-0 loss to league opponent Springfield College on Oct. 9.

The first guy to greet Armentrout every single time he came off the field was the guy he had just replaced, junior quarterback Tafari Wall. This week, Coast Guard announced that Armentrout, the easy-going 5-foot-10, 170-pound rookie from Oceanside, California, will start for the Bears against MIT on Saturday at Cadet Memorial Field (1:30 p.m.), replacing Wall. But it is still Wall who serves as his mentor.

"That leaves a lasting impact on someone like me, a freshman, seeing an upper classman who gets pulled out of the game for whatever reason but not letting that affect him and still choosing to be a leader," Armentrout said in Wednesday's team media luncheon. "That just shows his character and how much he loves the team and is willing to put any emotions aside for the better of the team.

"I know the whole team saw that and definitely respects him a lot more because of that."

Armentrout said Wall has always been someone he could talk to. The team breaks down by position after every practice and so the three quarterbacks, Wall, Armentrout and freshman Dennis O'Shea, have formed a tight bond.

"We go over the day, the week, how school's going," Armentrout said. "I think that's tradition for each position to meet but it's pretty cool because it's just us three so we really can, if something's going on, if something's bugging us, we can be ourselves there."

Coast Guard head coach C.C. Grant said the decision to replace Wall comes from more of a standpoint of what Armentrout can bring in terms of a fresh start for the Bears, who are on a four-game losing streak at 2-5 overall, 0-3 in the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference. Coast Guard is coming off a bye week.

Grant said Wall will serve as the backup and has also been taking repetitions at wide receiver.

"I'll just kind of say what the offensive (coaches) said to me as they're looking at it," Grant said. "It's not what Tafari can't do, it's what Joe, it's more the positive what he can. He's got a live arm, he's got a live wire. He put it on a couple guys the other day and the ball went through the offensive player's hands and it bounced off the linebacker's chest. I don't think either one saw the ball.

"I think they like what he can do. I think they like the grasp that he has of the offense and what they think he has. As coach (Ray) LaForte has put it it me, he's got (former quarterback) Jon Resch's arm, he's got Christian George's intuitiveness and he has Derek Victory's release. You put those things together, they think in the long run he's going to be a special, special, special player."

Armentrout said he learned the nuances of quarterback from his dad, Dan, also a former QB, from the time he was about 6 years old. He also played at Mission Hills High School along side current Indiana quarterback Jack Tuttle prior to graduating from El Camino High School in 2020.

"I try to model a lot of my game and leadership on and off the field after Jack, which was really cool just to see that and be under that," Armentrout said.

The main thing his dad tried to teach him was to have poise in any situation.

"The biggest thing he taught me was probably not to let anyone see me sweat," he said. "not to show any emotion whether I made a good play or a bad play and that really carried on in high school, I think, with the ups and downs."

That came in handy this year during a humbling Swab Summer training session for the incoming freshmen — "you've got to be almost like a robot," said Armentrout, who spent last year at Naval Academy Prep in Newport, R.I. "Any little thing they see, they'll point it out."

Armentrout was 3-for-11 for 21 yards in his relief appearance at Springfield. He's hoping to add to his resume this week. Wall was 99-for-185 with 1,134 yards, six touchdowns and 10 interceptions, adding two rushing touchdowns. Armentrout also hopes to get out of the pocket and run a little bit.

"I think in the position of backup quarterback, you always just have to be prepared for when your number or your name gets called," he said. "So really it was just a matter of when and how, whether it was in the middle of a game like Springfield or if it's coming off a bye week like this.

"The coaching staff does a really good job of preparing each Tafari, Dennis and I to step up, so it was just a matter of when and how."

v.fulkerson@theday.com

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