(Photo Credit: M/N Shawn Wehking '16)
TROY, N.Y. (Oct. 3, 2015) – On Saturday, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy football team traveled up to RPI for a Liberty League showdown. It was the Mariners' first road game of the year. The host Engineers came out on top, 27-7, which dropped USMMA to 1-3 (0-2 Liberty) on the season, while improving their own record to 4-1 (2-0 Liberty).
RPI sophomore Christian Kapp hit a 20-yard field goal midway through the opening quarter on the Engineers' first drive of the game to give the home squad a 3-0 lead. On their next drive, the Engineers got down to the Mariner one-yard line, but junior Josh Woodburn (Huntingtown, Md.) forced a fumble near the end zone that was recovered by senior Jacob Hill (Glen Burnie, Md.), which squashed RPI's threat. Later in the first quarter, RPI had anoter chance to add to its lead after starting a drive on the Merchant Marine 22-yard line, but four plays later Kapp missed a 28-yard FG attempt.
The Merchant Marine offense was kept on its half of the field the entire first quarter, but strung together a couple of first downs to get into enemy territory in the second quarter. However, the Mariners were unable to get deep enough into a scoring position.
Late in the second quarter, the Engineers were threatening after getting deep into Mariner territory, but junior Patrick Keyes (Parsippany, N.J.) forced a fumble at the 13-yard line that was recovered by senior Skyler Stone (Glen Allen, Va.). Two plays later, however, the Engineers forced and recovered a fumble around the USMMA 30-yard line. After four plays, senior QB Jeff Avery connected with classmate Logan Gaddar on an 11-yard TD pass and Kapp hit the PAT to give RPI a 10-0 lead with just 39 seconds remaining in the half.
Both teams traded three-and-outs to start the third quarter. On the Engineers second possession of the half, which started at the Merchant Marine 45-yard line, Avery found Gaddar once again, this time on a 33-yard TD pass. Again, Kapp converted on the PAT and RPI took a 17-0 lead at 9:07 of the third.
The Mariners' next drive lasted 12 plays and just over six and a half minutes, and they went 37 yards, bringing them down to the RPI 25-yard line, but they were unable to convert on a fourth-down play and turned the ball over on downs at the 26-yard line.
The Engineers would score again shortly after on a drive that spanned the end of the third quarter into the early part of the fourth, which got them into field goal range, where Kapp hit a 28-yard FG to make the score 20-0.
Merchant Marine responded with their first score of the day on the very next drive, after freshman Wiley Martin (Polo, Mo.) found the end zone on a two-yard run that capped off a 13-play, 77-yard drive. Sophomore Jake McDonough's (Wilmington, N.C.) PAT kick made it 20-7.
However, RPI extended its lead back to 20 points just over five minutes later when Avery and Gaddard hooked up for the third time in the game, this time on a 17-yard passing TD, and KAP added the PAT.
USMMA marched right back upfield on the next drive, reaching the RPI 25-yard line, but a fourth-down pass by senior Matt McDaniel (Malverne, N.Y.) intended for sophomore Robert Moore (Pace, Fla.) fell incomplete and, four plays later, the Engineers ran the clock down to claim the victory.
McDaniels led all players on the ground with 64 rushing yards and was also 5-for-15 in the air for 55 yards. Moore had 49 rushing yards, while sophomore DeVar Jones (Albany, N.Y.) and Martin were not far behind with 37 and 35 yards on the ground, respectively. Senior David Gregory (Murrysville, Pa.) was the Mariners' top receiver with two catches for 23 yards.
Defensively, Stone recorded a team-high 10 tackles and had one pass break-up and one fumble recovery. Woodburn had nine tackles, including one for a loss of a yard, and one forced fumble. Junior Marcus Kitchin (Arlington, Texas) registered eight tackles and had Merchant Marine's only sack of the day, a loss of three.
For RPI, Avery was 23-for-30 for 382 passing yards, while Gaddard hauled in eight catches for 131 yards with three scores. Junior Thomas Bennett led the Engineers defense with 15 tackles, including two for combined losses of two yards (and one sack).
The Mariners return to action next Saturday, Oct. 10, when they travel to Upstate New York to face Liberty League foe Rochester. Game time is scheduled for 1 p.m. at the Yellowjackets' Edwin Fauver Stadium. Live stats and a live video feed are available for the contest by following those links.
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