Setting the Scene... The Mariners kick-off the 2013 season at home, taking on the Susquehanna Crusaders of the Centennial Conference. However, the two institutions have become very familiar with each other as they share primary affiliation in the Landmark Conference. USMMA was tabbed sixth of eight teams in the 2013 Liberty League Preseason Coaches' Poll, coming off a 5-5 campaign last fall. The Mariners posted a 3-4 mark in the league in 2011, good for a fourth place tie. The Crusaders finished last year 6-4 overall as well as a 5-4 in league play. They were picked to finish sixth in the ten-team Centennial Conference in the Preseason Coaches' Poll.
Series History... The all-time series between the Mariners and Crusaders is currently tied at 2-2 after Susquehanna's 37-21 victory last season. In that game the Crusaders overcame a fourth quarter deficit with 21 points in the final four minutes of the game, including 14 points scored on defense. USMMA held a 14-10 advantage after three quarters, controlling the time of possession and gaining over 200 yards on the ground.
Mariner Openers... Merchant Marine is 29-38-1 in season openers as they begin their 69th season in 2013. The Mariners are 3-6 in openers since joining the Liberty League in 2004. USMMA is 3-5 in their season debuts under current head coach Mike Toop. This will be the second straight year that the Mariners are kicking-off the season against Susquehanna.
Mike Toop Coach's Show - Week 1 vs. Susquehanna
New Look Offense… USMMA will have a new signal caller and fullback in 2013 with the graduation of Alex Coviello and John-Leon Gosselin. The duo combined for half of the Mariners 2500 rushing yards last season. However, Merchant Marine has various options to fill in the gaps with a large number of underclassmen who received significant carries in 2012. Despite the changes, USMMA will likely continue to rely heavily on the ground game with a triple option offense.
All-Conference Returners… The Mariners have seven players returning for the 2013 campaign who earned All-Liberty League accolades last season. The group is highlighted by Tyler Washington (Chatham, NY) who was named to the league's first-team as a defensive back. Senior running back Connor Kennedy (Bellerose, NY) earned all-league second-team honors. Jacob Margrey (Baldwinsville, NY) and Ben Runchey (Springboro, OH) received honorable mentions as part of a strong offensive line while Matthew Morse (Covington, LA) and Skyler Stone (Deep Run, VA) were all-league honorable mentions on defense. Rounding out the Mariners All-Liberty League contingent is Matthew McDaniels (Malverne, NY) who earned an honorable mention as a return specialist.
Around The Liberty League... Six of the conference's eight teams will kick-off the 2013 season on Saturday while Union and Rochester will take to the field for the first time next weekend. Defending league champion and preseason favorite Hobart is ranked #7 in the nation and will start the season on the road against Dickinson.
Up Next... Next up for the Mariners will be the most anticipated game of the season as they square-off with rival Coast Guard for the Secretaries' Cup at Brooks Stadium. USMMA won the celebrated contest on the road last year, 43-37, and leads the all-time series with the Bears, 28-13.