2013 FOOTBALL PREVIEW
Coast Guard is coming off its first winning season since 2007 as the Bears finished 5-4 overall and 4-3 in the New England Football Conference (NEFC) Bogan Division last season. The Bears must however replace a large graduating class that featured seven All-division selections. Coast Guard returns just seven starters, four on offense, three on defense along with sophomore All-division selection Tyler Henning, who will handle both the kicking and punting for the second straight season.
The 2013 schedule will feature seven different opponents from last year as the New England Football Conference (NEFC) will have new look this season as the 16-team, two division conference now consists of eight teams, Curry, Endicott, Maine Maritime, MIT, Nichols, Salve Regina, Western New England and Coast Guard. The other eight teams left to form the MASCAC football conference. The Bears were picked sixth in the NEFC Preseason Coaches Poll of the eight teams.
Coast Guard will play a ten game schedule for the first time since 2000, with the shift in the NEFC format with no conference championship game, the Bears will open with three straight non-conference games before opening NEFC play on Sept. 28th at home against Nichols.
Senior co-captain Mike Vitrano returns at right guard as the back bone of the Bears offensive line. He is expected to start for the fourth straight season and is the only returning starting offensive lineman from last year's team, but he will miss at least the opener and maybe longer.
The Bears must replace record setting quarterback Jon Resch and four players, all with very little college football experience, competed for the job with junior Blake Thompson, who makes the move from wide receiver, winning the starting spot.
Junior Collis Brown, who led the team with 53 receptions for 538 yards to go with four touchdowns last season, is back to lead the Bears receivers. Seniors Nick Fredericksen, who had 16 catches for 180 yards and a touchdown last season played well in 2012 and along with classmate Alex Oswald (5 receptions, 33 yards) will look to have bigger roles this season.
The Bears do have a talented duo in the backfield in senior Tyler Hames and junior Jake Wawrzyniak, who were the top two rushers on the team last year. Wawrzyniak led the team with 127 carries for 516 yards and eight touchdowns while also catching 27 passes for 175 yards. Hames, who missed most of the season with an injury last season, had 35 carries for 186 yards.
"Jake and Tyler are both proven college football running backs, who along with Mike Vitrano will be the leaders of our offense this season," said George. Those guys will carry the load for us all season long."
On the defensive side of the ball, junior defensive end Aaron Black (55 tackles, 37 solo), who led the team with four sacks and ten tackles for loss last season, returns to anchor the defensive line while classmate Joel Wyman (25 tackles, 20 solo) will also start at defensive end.
Senior co-captain Nick Phillips, who missed most of last season with an injury, is back at inside linebacker and will be joined by returning starter junior Victor Rizzardi (38 tackles, 24 solo) at outside linebacker and sophomore inside linebacker Kyle Wood (32 tackles, 23 solo), who played very well in a limited role a year ago and will start this season.
Senior Evan Rothfeld (32 tackles, 2 interceptions, 3 fumble recoveries), a second team All-Bogan Division selection last season, is back at free safety. He will be surrounded by several new faces in the Bears secondary this season.
Henning, who was a perfect 39-for-39 on extra points last season and made six of 11 field goals, including a 27-yarder to beat Worcester State in overtime last season will handle both the kicking and punting duties after averaging 32.8 yards per punt a year ago.
Oswald, who led the team in both punt returns and kick returns last season is back along with sophomore James Rizzo (10 kickoff returns for 217 yards) and Wawrzyniak (8 kickoff returns for 139 yards) to give the Bears plenty of options on special teams. Oswald returned 14 kickoffs for 231 yards (16.5 avg.) while also having eight punt returns for 128 yards (16.0 avg.).
"This group has worked as hard in the offseason as any that I have seen," said George. "They have not blinked an eye at the talent that we have lost because they know it is their time to contribute and I expect that is what is going to happen. That is what happens in college football, it becomes another person's time to step up and perform like they can. I could not be more pleased with the leadership and work habits I have seen from this team."