GAME #1 FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Bears Host Alfred State in Season Opener

Ethan Goldcamp
Ethan Goldcamp

ALFRED STATE AT COAST GUARD
AUG. 31ST -- 7:00 -- NEW LONDON, CONN.

ON THE AIR: The game will be aired live on WXLM-980 AM. There also both an audio and video stream available and those links can be found at www.cgasports.com on the football schedule page.

THE SERIES: This is the first meeting between the two teams.

NEWMAC FOOTBALL BEGINS IN 2017: The New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC)will begin sponsoring the sport of football starting in the 2017 season. Conference members, the United States Coast Guard Academy, MIT, Springfield College and WPI will be joined by Maine Maritime Academy, the United States Merchant Marine Academy, and Norwich University, who enter the NEWMAC as associate members in 2017. Football becomes the 20th conference championship and the league's ninth men's offering.

Springfield, WPI, and Merchant Marine have been participating in the Liberty League, while MIT, Coast Guard, and Maine Maritime were members of the New England Football Conference, and Norwich was a part of the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference. In addition to the connection Maine Maritime, Merchant Marine and Norwich have to Coast Guard, MIT, Springfield and WPI in football; they also have long-standing relationships with NEWMAC members in other sports.

NEWMAC play begins on the weekend of Sept. 23rd. Coast Guard's NEWMAC opener will be at Norwich as the team's meet for the first time since 2005. These team's play for The Mug in football. Coast Guard holds The Mug from its 30-12 win in 2005.

COACH GEORGE IS BEARS WINS LEADER: Coast Guard head coach Bill George, in his 19th season, has a record 60 career wins as head coach at the Academy as he passed John Merriman for the most in program history in the win over Maine Maritime on Oct. 19th, 2013.

Merriman was the coach from (1930-1945) and the Gymnasium is named is his honor. In 2012, George passed NFL Hall of Famer and former Director of Athletics and head football coach Otto Graham, who had 43 wins in his two stints as head coach (1959-'65 and 1974-'75). Coach George led the Bears to a pair of NEFC Bogan Division championships in 2006 and 2007.

ESPN IS COMING TO NEW LONDON: Coast Guard will host Merchant Marine in the final game of the season this year as the team's battle for the Secetaries' Cup and the game will be carried live by the ESPN family of networks on Veterans Day, Nov. 11th at time to be announced.

Here is what the 2017 Coast Guard football captains have to say about the opportunity to play on ESPN

CODY BAIN
"We are ecstatic about opportunity ESPN has given us; we look forward to representing our nations' finest service academy in a classic rivalry against Merchant Marine. If you're watching Coast Guard football you aren't going to find any flashing lights or glamour. It's never been that way.  It never will.  What you will find is selflessness and college football in its purest form. There are no aspirations of playing at a higher level, only aspirations to one day be worthy of a commission as an officer in the U.S. Coast Guard, in the service of our country and humanity. In today's society, we are especially conscious of the sacrifices veterans and their families make. We are honored to be part of this nationwide celebration of America's heroes."

RYAN ROBERTSON
"I think this game will be a great opportunity for the team as well as for the Academy as a whole. It is a good way to get exposure on a popular network and educate people about the other two service Academies that can sometimes be forgotten.  I admire ESPN's commitment to honoring the members of the Armed Forces and I think the program is blessed to be able to play a long standing rivalry game on Veteran's Day weekend. I am personally excited for one of my last games of football here at the Academy to be as important and beneficial to the football program as this opportunity presents. Nonetheless, it will be a unique experience that I won't forget."

A LOOK BACK AT THE 1997 NCAA PLAYOFF TEAM: It has been 20 years since the 1997 football team made the program's second straight NCAA Playoff appearance. That team coached by Chuck Mills won the Freedom Football Conference (FFC) with a perfect 6-0 record and finished the regular season 9-1, the third best regular season football record recorded at the Academy. The Bears lost to Rowan 43-0 in the NCAA playoffs to finish 9-2. The nine wins is tied with the 1988 team for the most wins in a season.

Each week this season, we will take a look back at how that team did.

In 1997 college football added a tiebreaker and Coast Guard and RPI wasted no time putting it to use in the season opener.

Jamie Amon's 10-yard run gave the Bears a 22-16 win, their first win over RPI since 1991 and the Shotglass Trophy. RPI had tied the game 16-16 with 7:05 left in regulation.

Coast Guard won the coin toss in overtime and elected to go on defense first. RPI missed a 41-yard field goal on 4th and 9 and.

Dan Warren (214 yards, 2 TD) threw a 15-yard pass to Joe Comar in overtime to setup Amon's winning scamper.

SCOUTING COAST GUARD: Coast Guard returns 14 starters, seven on each side of the ball, and both the punter and kicker for the 2017 season.

Junior Ethan Goldcamp takes over as the starting quarterback with the graduation of record setting quarterback Derek Victory. Goldcamp was 44 of 88 for 599 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions last season. He came off the bench and threw for 380 yards and three touchdowns in a 37-35 loss to Catholic last season.

Junior Jeff Porter, senior Cam Cecchini and sophomore Mike Kenny will all see time in the Bears backfield. Porter carried 26 times for a team-high 186 yards and two touchdowns last season while Cecchini carried a team-high 76 times and finished with 159 yards and a touchdown. Porter also had 21 receptions for 147 yards and two touchdowns while Cecchini had 27 catches for 184 yards and two scores.

The Bears return a trio of very talented wide receivers led by senior Darius Adams, who had a breakout season last year, in his first season of football at any level.

Adams had a remarkable rookie campaign as he set or tied three school records finishing with single-season school records of 1,054 receiving yards and 13 touchdown receptions while also tying the single-game record of three touchdown receptions twice this season. He was second on the team with 47 receptions.
 
He was named to the New England Football Writers Division II/III All-New England Team as well as being named the New England Football Conference (NEFC) Offensive Rookie of the Year and he was also a first team All-conference selection.
 
Adams led the NEFC and was 17th nationally with his 1,054 yards and 13 touchdowns (11th nationally). Adams was second in the conference with 105.4 yards per game (21st nationally) and 22.4 yards per reception (13th  nationally).

Senior co-captain Cody Bain and junior Chip Crowley also return after solid seasons in 2016.

Bain, who was the tight end last season, led the Bears with 55 receptions to go with 783 yards and three touchdowns last season. He earned second team All-conference honors. Bain had four games with over 100 receiving yards. He has 85 receptions for 1,187 yards and five touchdowns in his career.

Crowley had 38 receptions for 459 yards and a pair of touchdown receptions last season.

Coast Guard returns three starters on the offensive line in senior right tackle Cory Tomasetti, junior right guard Hudson Dunaway and junior left tackle Bill Boardman.

On the defensive side the ball, the Bears lost all three starting linemen to graduation, but do return seven starters.

Senior co-captain Ryan Robertson (SS) and senior Matt O'Donnell (FS) return at the safety spots while senior Will Daniels (26 tackles) and sophomore Pat Crowley (58 tackles), who led the team with four interceptions, are back starting at the cornerback spots.

Robertson led the team with 81 tackles, 60 solo and had three tackles for loss and an interception while O'Donnell was second on the team with 67 tackles, 44 solo and a pair of interceptions.

Junior linebacker Jake Behne earned second team All-conference honors last season as he was third on the team and led the Bears linebackers with 63 tackles and was second on the team with 46 solo tackles and five tackles for loss and four pass breakups. He also had one interception.

Juniors Luke Wilson (32 tackles) and Titus Creamer (50 tackles) also return as starters in the Bears linebacking corp.

Chip Crowley, who averaged 35.4 yards per punt last season, as the starter along with sophomore Ivan Davis will compete for the starting punting job in preseason camp while junior Cole Austin returns as the kicker. Austin was 23 of 24 on PAT's last season and made his only field goal attempt after returning from injury. Pat Crowley was 10 for 10 on PAT's while Austin was injured.

SCOUTING ALFRED STATE: Alfred State is ready for the start of a new era as the Pioneers begin competition in the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC).

Alfred State, led by third year head coach Jarod Dodson, enters their fifth year playing a NCAA Division III schedule and 2017 marks the first year that the program will play for a chance at a conference championship (The Pioneers join the ECFC after playing an independent schedule the previous four seasons).

Over 100 players reported to preseason camp and thirty players return from the 2016 team. 56 players on the roster are freshmen and eight are from outside of New York.

The defense boasts the return of 18 players. Five of the Pioneers top six tacklers from 2016 return. Linebacker Brandon Davis was the second leading tackler with 99 (25 solo), defensive end John Lauretti accumulated 58 tackles and four sacks, defensive end Justin Espinal recorded 57 tackles, defensive back Jhamel Cohen added 40 tackles and two interceptions, and linebacker Carlisle Philip was credited with 38 tackles and five sacks. Michael Zimmerman, 28 tackles, Kaieel Ward, 13 tackles, and Jamal Little, 11 tackles, all return to the defensive secondary.

The line boasts the most experience on the offensive side of the ball. Returning starters Sam Van Valkenburg, Devon Clark, and Todd Capen will be counted on to open up holes and provide protection for a group of young skills player.

Eli Frantz  and Hunter Evingham both saw limited time at quarterback last year and will compete for the starting spot this season. Targets for Frantz and Evingham will include returners Kelvin Allotey, Giovanni Jean and Joe Moscato. Chris Meadows and Kegan Brown will be two of a contingent of young running backs that will look to contribute to the ground game.

Senior kicker Zack Goodwin returns after finishing second on the team in scoring with 17 points last year (2 for 6 field goals and 11 for 15 PAT's). Zimmerman averaged 36.8 yards per punt last year in limited action.

Three keys to improvement in 2017 will be turnovers, red zone effectiveness, and 3rd down conversions. In 2016, the team turned the ball over 26 times while forcing just 11 turnovers, scored in only 59% of their chances inside the red zone, and converted 25% of their 3rd down attempts. The defense will look to force more turnovers, improve on their opponents 74% red zone scoring percentage, and lower the opponents 53% conversion rate on 3rd down.

UP NEXT: Coast Guard will play at Union in a non-conference game next week, Saturday, Sept. 9th with kickoff set for 1:00. It is the first meeting between the two teams since 2005 when the Dutchmen beat the Bears 7-0.