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November 5, 2011

Football notebook: Seniors get their (Satur)day in the sun

KINGS POINT, N.Y. – The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy will recognize and honor its senior class on the football team prior to its final home game of the season against Union College on Saturday.

While the team has struggled to a 2-6 overall record and a 1-3 mark in the Liberty League, head coach Mike Toop realized the seniors have put their full efforts into the season.

"The kids have played hard," he said. "I have been most impressed with the seniors. It's always different, a sense of urgency for seniors, always a great deal higher than it is for underclassmen. When you've got the distraction now for a lot of the second and third classmen are looking to go to sea. The first classmen, I have been really proud of them and what they've done."

Toop did not single out any players, although he said they were a pleasure to coach.

"They all have been," he said. "They've really, really worked hard out at sea to come back ready to play. I'm really disappointed for them."

About the bye week

While it may seem the Mariners – players and coaches -- received a respite during bye week, that might necessarily be the entire story.

Kings Point did not schedule any games because it was final exam week in its trimester schedule during the week of Oct. 24.

That meant the players weren't practicing and had to keep up physically on their own while they put their full focus on studies and not athletic pursuits.

"It wasn't a week off because they had finals," Toop said. "It hurts us because not many are out there running and lifting and staying in shape. The first couple of days this week we try to catch up physically a little bit because they have been away from it a bit and mentally as well.

"It's not a bye week like other places like other schools get bye weeks in the middle of the year and they're not taking finals. It's not something that helps us at all."

With no game to prepare for, the Merchant Marine coaches went recruiting locally for several days before coming into the office at the end of last week to work up a game plan for Union. Toop said he and his staff worked Sunday, looked at the Dutchmen's RPI video "and adjusted the game plan a little bit."

"Coaching-wise we were ahead of the game for Union, but we were not playing," he added.

Photo: Senior linebacker Kevin Stapf and his classmates will be recognized and honored during pre-game ceremonies on Saturday. Photo by Shawn Antonelli