Kings Point, NY – The USMMA football team claimed a 27-20 victory in the most anticipated game of the season, defeating rival Coast Guard, 27-20, Saturday afternoon at Brooks Stadium. The Mariners overcame four turnovers to win the Secretaries' Cup for the 13th time in the last 16 years and improve their all-time record against Coast Guard to 29-13 overall as well as 22-11 with the cup on the line. Reigning Liberty League and ECAC D-III Northwest Player of the Week Matthew McDaniels had another monster game, racking up 245 rushing yards and scoring three touchdowns.
Merchant Marine (2-0) struck first as Charles Helms (North Brunswick, NJ) burrowed his way over the goal line from two yards out to make it 7-0. The Mariners quickly made it a two possession game with McDaniels' first score of the afternoon, going around the right side of the Bears defense for a nine-yard score.
Coast Guard (0-2) would answer right back with an 11-play, 73-yard drive on its ensuing possession. The big play of the march came on a 37-yard reception by Collis Brown from Blake Thompson. USMMA stuffed the Bears twice on first and second and goal on the one-yard line. However, the visitors got across on its third try with Thompson surging into the end zone to move the score line to 14-7.
The Bears had a great opportunity to tie the game after a USMMA fumble gave Coast Guard the ball at the Mariners 26-yard line. However, the Merchant Marine defense moved their rivals backwards on the drive, forcing USCGA to settle for a field goal attempt. Coast Guard would register the only points of the second quarter as Tyler Henning blasted a 44-yard field goal down the center of the uprights.
Coast Guard would grab its first lead of the game on the opening possession of the second half. This time the Bears went 82 yards and Jake Wawrzyniak capped the drive with a 13-yard touchdown run. Overall, the Mariners defended the run well and held Coast Guard to 84 yards on the ground on 36 total carries.
Merchant Marine would need only five plays to go back on top as McDaniels broke off a 43-yard run to the end zone that gave the Mariners a 21-17 edge. Coast Guard attempted to make it a one point game in the third quarter but Michael Biehn (The Woodlands, TX) blocked a 34-yard field goal attempt.
The Bears would return the favor by blocking a USMMA punt late in the third quarter setting themselves up in prime field position. The Mariners would stand tall again and force a three-and-out that resulted in zero points. Coast Guard would eventually close the margin to 21-20 on a 40-yard Henning field goal with 10:58 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The two teams battled for field position down the stretch until Henning fumbled a long snap as he tried to punt the ball away with 3:00 to play in regulation. Two plays later the Mariners converted on the miscue as McDaniels picked his way through the Bears defense from 10 yards out for his third touchdown of the afternoon. USMMA's snap on the extra point was juggled and ultimately led to a failed conversion, keeping the Bears within one touchdown at 27-20.
Coast Guard got the ball back with 2:42 on the clock and two timeouts in its pocket. Matthew Morse (Covington, LA) and Jacob Washer (Whitefish, MT) sacked Thompson on the first play of the drive to keep the Bears moving backwards. Morse was all over the field Saturday, compiling a game high 14 tackles along with three quarterback hurries and one pass break up. The Mariners defense then forced three straight incomplete passes to turn the ball over and downs and seal the victory.
Merchant Marine finished the game with 368 rushing yards and held the ball for 32:30. Helms rounded out his stat line with 80 yards on 20 total carries while Colin Hinchey (Denton, TX) posted 37 yards on five attempts.
The USMMA football team is off to a 2-0 start for the first time since 2009. The Mariners will look to win their first three of a season for the first time since 1997 next week on the road against Maritime (NY).