Merchant Marine Captures Secretaries' Cup

Ryan Jones
Ryan Jones

NEW LONDON, Conn. – Senior quarterback Krystian Abbott had 298 yards of total offense as he threw for 181 yards and a scored and ran for 117 yards and a touchdown as Merchant Marine captured the Secretaries' Cup with a 56-41 win over Coast Guard in the final game for Bears' head coach Bill George, who retires after 21 seasons.

Merchant Marine finishes the season 6-3 overall and 5-2 in the NEWMAC while the Bears finish 5-5 overall and 2-5 in conference play.

The Mariners had 474 yards of total offense, 293 of those on the ground led by Abbott's 32 carries for 117 yards. Abbott was 10 of 15 for 181 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

Coast Guard finished with 376 yards, 311 of those in the air.

Senior quarterback Ryan Jones accounted for five touchdowns in the final game of his career. He was 12 of 27 for 311 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. He also rushed for 36 yards and two touchdowns to finish with 347 yards of total offense for Coast Guard.

Jones, who started the day fourth on the Bears' all-time passing yards list, finished his career second all-time at the Academy with 4,693 yards. He moved up two spots passing both Jon Resch, who had 4,569 yards and Cory Anderson's 4,459 yards. Derek Victory ('17) is Coast Guard's all-time leader with 7,513 yards.

Junior Justin Moffatt had game-highs with five receptions and 149 yards and a touchdown while sophomore Damaso Jaime had three receptions for 88 yards and two scores. Moffatt finished the season with 66 receptions for a career best 872 yards and five touchdowns.

The Bears struck first on a 65 yard touchdown pass from Jones to Moffatt just 80 seconds into the game for a 7-0 lead. The Mariners would tie the score on their first possession on a 10 yard run by James Early with 9:12 left in the opening quarter to cap a 12 play drive in which they converted three third downs.

Early's 5 yard run on the final play of the first quarter finished off a 14 play, 98 yard drive. The point after was missed and Merchant Marine led 13-7.

Jones' 3 yard touchdown run and Patrick Crowley's kick on the ensuing possession gave the Bears a 14-13 lead with 13:33 left in the half. The big play was a 52 yard pass to Moffatt to set up the touchdown.

The Mariners came up big following a punt as Garrett Johnson returned an interception 31 yards for the go ahead score with 10:17 left in the half and following the extra point Merchant Marine led 20-14.

Coast Guard would fumble ensuing kickoff and four plays later Abbott threw an 18 yard touchdown pass to Brian McGovern, who made a juggling catch in the end zone on 4th and 4 and Merchant Marine led 27-14 with 8:22 left.

The Bears would cut into the lead before the half as Moffatt had a 66 yard punt return to set up a 2 yard touchdown run by Jones with 3:45 left as the Bears trailed 27-21 at the half.

Merchant Marine would add to its lead on the opening possession of the second half as Abbott scored on a 3 yard run and Alec Kiernan ran in the two-point conversion to make the score 35-21 with 10:47 left in the third.

Sophomore Brennan Dalgleish had his first career interception, fumbled it and teammate Mike Palermo recovered at the MMA 27 to set up a 9 yard touchdown pass from Jones to Jamie to make the score 35-28 with 5:24 left in the third.

Joe Vitelli returned the ensuing kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown to quiet the capacity crowd and give Merchant Marine momentum and a 42-28 lead with 5:11 left in the third.

Matt Restifo's 4 yard run with 2:49 left pushed the lead to 49-28 before Jones hit Jamie with a 34 yard touchdown strike with 1:35 left in the quarter to make the scored 49-34 following the missed PAT.

Kiernan had a 1 yard touchdown run with 13:31 left pushing the lead to 56-34 and Coast Guard closed the scoring a 1 yard run by Jon Wagner with 5:23 left.

The 56 points scored by Merchant Marine were the most in the 48 meetings with Coast Guard breaking the mark of 48 set in 2017. The 97 combined points were the most in the series, the old record was 80 points set in 2012 when Merchant Marine won 43-37.

Junior Eugene Bitzer had a game-high 16 tackles, 10 solo for Coast Guard to finish the season with 110 tackles while classmate Colby Coco had 11 tackles.

Bill George leaves the Academy with a school record 75 wins as head football coach.