Geneva, NY – The USMMA Football team kept things interesting early and scored late but ultimately were unable to pull off an upset of #13 Hobart Saturday afternoon in the Liberty League opener for both teams. The Mariners defense notched three interceptions as USMMA won the time of possession battle. Luke Stidham (Baltimore, MD) paced the Merchant Marine attack with 161 rushing yards and a touchdown while John-Leon Gosselin (Nashua, NH) scored his team leading fifth touchdown of 2012.
Merchant Marine (2-2, 0-1 Liberty) got a big play from its defense on the opening drive as Tyler Washington (Chatham, NY) came up with an interception on the USMMA two yard line to keep the Statesmen from scoring with the game's first possession. However, the Mariners would be unable to turn the field position around and the home team capitalized with a Steven Webb nine-yard TD run to take a 7-0 advantage. Webb finished the game with 150 yards on 16 carries along with a three trips to the end zone.
Hobart (4-0, 1-0 Liberty) then forced USMMA to turn the ball over on downs after the Mariners came up short on fourth and one. The Statesmen found their way across the goal line eight plays later as Bobby Dougherty dove in from four yards out to make it 14-0 with 47 seconds remaining in the opening quarter.
Merchant Marine then put together its first solid drive of the afternoon, an 11-play march that covered 78 yards. However, the Mariners were unable to punch the ball in for a touchdown and freshman kicker Daniel Kennedy (Youngstown, OH) knocked through a 22-yard field goal to give USMMA its first points. The momentum continued for Merchant Marine on Hobart's first play after the kick-off as freshman Skyler Stone (Glen Allen, VA) notched his team leading third interception of the season.
The Mariners would again get the ball down to the Statesmen's two yard line with the big play of the drive coming in the form of a 21-yard run from Stidham. However, USMMA would again have to settle for a field goal as reigning Liberty League Special Teams Performer of the Week, Kennedy, put through a 21-yarder to cut the Merchant Marine deficit to one possession, 14-6, heading into halftime.
Hobart would take control of the game with a dominant drive that began with 11:55 on the clock in the third quarter. The Statesmen marched 95 yards in 16 plays as Dominique Ellis plunged into the end zone to give Hobart a 21-6 cushion. Hobart then held the Mariners to a three and out and needed just one play from the offense to make it 28-6 as Webb broke off a 38-yard TD scamper. Webb had another big play to start the fourth quarter as a 39-yard touchdown run moved the score line to 35-6.
Merchant Marine refused to go quietly and would go on to score 15 unanswered points. The first strike came following an 11-play drive as Gosselin burrowed his way into the end zone from two yards out. Five minutes later Stidham broke free and found pay dirt after a 54-yard run, following a successful two-point conversion USMMA trailed 35-21 with 4:38 to play.
The Statesmen put to rest any thought of a comeback with a 3:28 drive that concluded in a six-yard touchdown from Connor Hartigan and provided the game's final score, 42-21, with 1:09 remaining in regulation.
Andrew Harmon (Jacksonville, FL) was responsible for the Mariners third interception of the contest. Washington paced the USMMA defense with 13 total tackles, 11 of the solo variety.
The Merchant Marine football team returns home for a Liberty League clash with Rensselaer next Saturday. The two sides will meet on USMMA's homecoming with kick-off scheduled for 2:00 PM.