MIDDLETOWN, R.I.—Junior linebacker Erik Klein returned an interception 92 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter as Salve Regina, the top defense in the New England Football Conference (NEFC), forced five turnovers and held off an upset minded Coast Guard team 25-14 to remain unbeaten in NEFC play.
The Seahawks improved to 7-2 overall and 6-0 in the NEFC while the Bears drop to 3-6 overall and 3-3 in conference play. Salve plays at Endicott next week for the conference championship and automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs.
"The defense played outstanding, they stopped Salve throughout the game," said Coast Guard head coach Bill George. "We had some chances offensively, but we turned the ball over too many times. In the end they made a play or two that we didn't and the the big pick six obviously hurt us."
The Coast Guard defense had done an outstanding job all afternoon of keeping the underdog Bears in the game and it stopped the Seahawks on their own 45-yard line to get the ball back early in the fourth quarter trailing 13-7.
The Bears offense drove down to the Salve 5-yard line, thanks to runs of 19 and eight yards by junior Jake Wawrzyniak, and got a defensive pass interference call on 4th-and-goal, to keep the drive alive, before the game changing play, a 92-yard interception return for a touchdown by Klein for a 19-7 lead with 10:22 left, the two-point conversion run failed.
Coast Guard responded by driving down to the Salve 20-yard line, but turned it over on downs with 7:40 left.
Salve Regina had a bad snap on a punt on its next possession and the Bears got the ball on the Seahawk 4-yard line and Wawrzyniak scored on the first play and following Henning's extra point, the Bears trailed 19-14 with 4:42 left.
Junior running back Dan Buonocore had a 32-yard touchdown run with 1:49 left to put the game away.
Coast Guard held the advantage in total yards as the Bears finished with 327 yards, 242 of those in the air while
Salve Regina which was averaging 435 yards per game, finished with 315 yards, 129 passing and 186 on the ground.
Senior running back Richie Edwards 1-yard run gave Salve a 13-7 lead with 12:06 left in the third quarter, the extra point was no good. The touchdown was set up by senior Josh Burnett's 37-yard return of an interception and a personal foul following the play gave the Seahawks the ball at the Bears 19-yard line and they took advantage of the short field.
Coast Guard was forced to punt on its next possession, but the Bears had a great chance as the Seahawks fumbled the punt and a personal foul gave the Bears the ball at the Salve 30-yard line. Coast Guard could not gain a yard before sophomore Tyler Henning missed a 47-yard field goal with 9:47 left in the third quarter.
The Coast Guard defense came up big on its next possession forcing a fumble to stall a Salve drive at the Bears 34-yard line, but freshman quarterback Derek Victory was intercepted by junior Matt Conroy on the second play and he returned it 17 yards to give the Seahawks the ball at the Bears 30-yard line. Once again the Bears defense did its job as Salve's high powered offense was forced to punt with 4:50 left in the third quarter.
Victory was 25 of 49 for 164 yards with a touchdown, but threw four interceptions. Brown led the Bears with eight receptions for 114 yards. Wawrzyniak led Coast Guard with 16 carries for 83 yards. Sophomore quarterback Drew Londo was 3 of 6 for 46 yards as he came on late in the fourth quarter.
Edwards got Salve on the board with a 5-yard touchdown run with nine seconds left in the first quarter. It was the Seahawks third possession of the game. The touchdown capped a 68-yard drive to break the scoreless tie.
Coast Guard which punted on four of its first five possessions tied the game on a 3-yard touchdown pass from freshman quarterback Derek Victory to Wawrzyniak with 3:02 left in the first half and sophomore Tyler Henning's extra point tied the game 7-7. The big play on the 48-yard drive was the first play of the drive, as the Bears dug into their bag of tricks and senior wide receiver Nick Fredericksen completed 43-yard pass to junior wide receiver Collis Brown down to the 5-yard line.
Salve Regina had 155 total yards in the first half, 107 passing while the Bears finished with 146 yards in the opening half, 104 in the air.
The Seahawks were penalized 13 times for 176 yards in the game.
Junior defensive end Aaron Black led the Bears with 13 tackles.
Coast Guard closes out the season at home on Saturday vs. MIT with kickoff set for 1 p.m.