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A real rush for Coast Guard in 33-6 win over previously unbeaten Nichols

New London — The first week of the season, Coast Guard Academy football coach C.C. Grant didn't think his team ran the ball very efficiently. In week two, he thought the Bears gave up on the run game too quickly.

And so Saturday, Coast Guard ran the ball starting from the first series.

Jared Colletti ran for a 92-yard touchdown on the Bears' second play from scrimmage, two plays later Spencer McMillion ran his first career carry for a 71-yard score and Coast Guard raced to 287 yards rushing overall in a 33-6 win over Nichols in which the team played not only efficiently but convincingly from start to finish. Nichols was previously unbeaten at 2-0.

"Coach was harping on it all week here, 'We're going to run the ball,'" Colletti said. "All Spencer and I had to do was get the ball from Tafari (Wall, Coast Guard quarterback) and run straight ahead.

"... Our big guys up front (on the offensive line), they can't wait to run the ball. It's like they're running the ball (along with us). Without them up front, Spencer and I go nowhere."

Colletti finished with 21 carries for 141 yards and a touchdown and McMillion — who had two career catches, playing more of a slot receiver role in last year's game against Merchant Marine — had 11 carries for 135 yards and two touchdowns. Coast Guard amassed 427 yards of offense overall.

Wall saved his best throw for last, a 16-yard touchdown pass to Damaso Jaime over the middle with 2 minutes, 47 seconds remaining in the game, and the Bears (2-1) finished with three interceptions, one each for Adam Jibril-Barnes, Logan Morris and Ethan Lasher. Finnegan Hall added field goals of 39 and 26 yards for Coast Guard, which bounced back from a 21-18 loss last week at Curry.

"I told (offensive coaches Ray LaForte and Derik Abbott), 'I think you guys need to run the ball more,'" Grant said. "The adjustments they made paid off big time. ... It's great when the defense can't stop it or figure it out, meanwhile our defense is over there staying rested and drinking Gatorade.

"It was surprising how we got off (to such a good start). I know they've got a good ballclub from what they've done. And to have two runs over 75 yards, that was pretty surprising to me. I thought it was a great way to bounce back."

McMillion's 71-yarder made it 14-0, at which point the Bears had four carries for 166 yards. They missed a field goal on their third drive, then got McMillion's second touchdown of the day at the 13:53 mark of the second quarter when he scored from 18 yards out. That made it 21-0, a margin which stood at halftime.

Nichols scored first to start the second half on a 37-yard run by Archie Killian but Coast Guard answered with two field goals by Hall, getting it to 27-6 with 10:30 remaining in the fourth quarter. The interception by Lasher, a freshman linebacker, set up the Bears' final scoring drive, on which Wall was 2-for-2 for 52 yards, with completions of 36 and 16 yards to Jaime.

Wall finished 12-for-19 for 140 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Jaime had three catches for 67 yards and Matt Ross five catches for 44 yards. Senior linebacker Michael Palermo led the way with 10 tackles and Jibril-Barnes had seven.

The Bears had three sacks, holding Nichols quarterback Logan Sawyer to 11-for-28 passing for 81 yards and no touchdowns. Running back Joshua Pierre-Charles, a 2,000-yard rusher for his career, had 20 attempts for 110 yards.

The Homecoming Weekend crowd at Cadet Memorial Field, which celebrated the first Coast Guard home game in 672 days due to COVID-19, included Coast Guard commandant Karl Schultz, who addressed the team following the game.

The Bears debuted a new set of uniforms honoring the Pea Island Life-Saving Station, the first in the country to have an all-Black crew and the first to have a Black man, Richard Etheridge, as its commanding officer beginning in 1880.

"Coach talked to us about it and what those men did. Coach told us to play with the same honor that they served with," Colletti said.

"We have a 24-hour rule so last week doesn't matter to us any more. We get to celebrate this but come Monday morning we've got to be concentrating on Anna Maria," McMillion said of the victory. "It feels good to get out here, though and to wear our Pea Island uniforms. I think it feels really good."

v.fulkerson@theday.com

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