NEW LONDON, Conn. (Nov. 11, 2017) – The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy football team defeated arch-rival Coast Guard, 48-23, on Saturday afternoon in the annual Secretaries' Cup Game up at the Bears' Cadet Memorial Stadium. The game was broadcasted live and streamed on ESPN3 as part of ESPN's week-long celebration of Veterans Day.
With the victory, the Mariners end the regular season with a 5-4 overall record, which is their second-straight winning regular season. Also, the win solidifies USMMA as eligible to play at an ECAC Bowl Game and the Mariners will find out if they're invited to one on Monday afternoon.
This is the Merchant Marine's third-straight Secretaries' Cup win and 25th all-time since it was established in 1981. Merchant Marine owns a commanding 32-14 record overall in the rivalry game, which is finally back at the end of the season for the first time since 2005. The first game ever between the two Academies was played back in 1949.
Senior Brice Moore (Pace, Fla.) was a huge factor in the victory once again, as he finished the day with 207 rushing yards and tied for the team-best with two touchdowns. He also completed one pass for 33 yards. Classmate Luke Tiefenthalercompiled 70 rushing yards and also found the end zone twice, while junior Wiley Martin had a rushing touchdown after running for 44 yards on the day.
Martin almost had two TDs on the day, as he nearly ran in the Mariners' first score, but he fumbled the ball at the goal line and sophomore Joe Vitelli jumped on the loose ball in the end zone for the score. Vitelli also caught the Mariners' lone reception of the day for 33 yards.
After the Bears opened the scoring with a field goal on the first drive of the day, the Mariners responded with 21 unanswered points, as the offense scored on its first three drives (Vitelli's fumble recovery and rushes by Tiefenthaler and Martin) and the defense held Coast Guard to back-to-back three-and-outs. Coast Guard added one more score before halftime and Merchant Marine went into the locker room ahead 21-14.
The game got real interesting in the third quarter after Tiefenthaler ran in his second TD of the game to push the lead to 27-14. The Bears found the end zone on two-straight possessions, getting help from the defense on a big 4th-and-1 stop to have the Mariners turn the ball over on downs and exploding for a 68-yard passing TD that got them back to within four points, 27-23, with 1:17 to go in the third.
The Mariners responded immediately when Vitelli returned the ensuing kickoff 83 yards down to the Bears' eight yard line, and three plays later Moore ran in his first TD of the day to put the Mariners' ahead 34-23 just four seconds into the fourth quarter.
Coast Guard turned the ball over on all four of its possessions in the fourth quarter, starting with a fumble on the ensuing kickoff. Sophomore Tyler Reihs jumped on the ball and USMMA took over at the Bears' 28-yard line. That drive ended on a missed field goal, however, but when Coast Guard took possession over they had a reception end up as a fumble and junior Brooks Cannell scooped the ball up and ran it back 26 yards for the score in what was arguably the turning point of the game.
Senior Anthony Sandoval also recorded two fourth-quarter interceptions in the Bears' end zone, which put a big halt to Coast Guard's confidence late. Moore picked up his second rushing TD of the game at 3:48 of the fourth and after Sandoval's second pick at 1:45, the game was sealed.
Sophomore Trever Huss led the Mariner defenders with a game-high 13 tackles, including one for a loss. Classmates Tanner Carter and Reno Dubreuil both finished the day with eight tackles each and junior Jake Wallace (Pittsburgh, Pa.) had seven stops, including 1.5 for combined losses of 10 yards and a sack. Junior Jacob Davis also had a sack on the day, which dropped Coast Guard back 13 yards, and he finished the game with three tackles.
On special teams, senior Jake McDonough was 3-for-4 on PATs and added to his single-season Academy record. Classmate Erik Swayne was 3-for-3 on PATs, nailing all three in the fourth quarter. Swayne also averaged 42 yards on two punts with a long of 52 yards in the second quarter that was downed at the Bears' four-yard line. Vitelli ended the day with 122 kickoff return yards on three returns (44.3 yards per return) with the long of 83 yards, the huge return late in the third.
For Coast Guard, sophomore quarterback Ryan Jones ended with 311 passing yards on 24-for-36 completions with three touchdowns. Jones was also the Bears' top rusher with 45 yards on 13 carries. Freshman Justin Moffatt hauled in two catches for 110 yards, including the 68-yard TD in the third, and senior Darius Adams had a team-best eight catches for 109 yards and scored twice. Defensively, junior Jack Brandt led Coast Guard with 11 tackles while sophomore Mark Wicke and junior Tommy Jones both had nine stops apiece. Junior punter Chip Crowley averaged 42.3 yards on four punts with a long of 48 and two inside the Mariners' 20-yard line.