NEW LONDON, Conn. – Senior quarterback Brice Moore carried 40 times for 210 yards and a pair of touchdowns and Merchant Marine scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to beat Coast Guard 48-23 to win the Secretaries' Cup in a New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) game to close out the season for the Bears.
Coast Guard turned the ball over four times in the fourth quarter after not turning it over in the first three quarters of the game.
Merchant Marine improves to 5-4 overall and 4-3 in the NEWMAC while the Bears finish the season 3-7 overall and 1-6 in the conference.
The Mariners triple-option offense would finish with 456 yards of total offense, 423 of those on the ground. Merchant Marine ran the ball on 81 of its 85 plays.
Coast Guard had 419 yards of total offense, 311 passing and 108 rushing.
Coast Guard rallied from a 27-10 third quarter deficit with a pair of touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Ryan Jones. He threw a 23-yard touchdown to senior Darius Adams and then a 68-yard strike to freshman Justin Moffatt with 1:17 left in the third to get the Bears back in the game, following the missed extra point, Coast Guard had cut the deficit to 27-23.
That is when the game turned. Coast Guard turned the ball over on all four possessions in the fourth quarter.
Sophomore Joe Vitelli returned the ensuing kickoff 83 yards to the 8-yard line. Moore would score on a 3-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter pushing the lead to 34-23 with 14:56 left.
Coast Guard would fumble the ensuing kickoff, but the Bears defense held the Mariners and a missed field goal attempt gave the ball back to the Bears.
The key play of the game would be the next play from scrimmage when senior Cody Bain caught a pass and fumbled and junior Brooks Cannell scooped it up and ran 26 yards for the score making the score 41-23 with 13:15 left.
Jones would be intercepted in the end zone by senior Anthony Sandoval, his first of two fourth quarter interceptions in the end zone, on the next possession.
Moore's 4-yard touchdown run with 3:48 left would close the scoring and Sandoval had his second interception in the end zone of the quarter with 1:45 left before Merchant Marine ran the clock out.
Jones had the best game of his career as he finished 24 of 36 for 311 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing for 45 yards.
Adams had eight catches for 108 yards and two touchdowns in the final game of his injury plaqued senior season which saw him miss five games due to injury.
Freshman Justin Moffatt was also over 100 yards receiving on the day as he caught a pair of passes for 110 yards. Junior defensive tackle Jack Brandt led the Bears with 11 tackles, eight solo while sophomore Mark Wicke had nine solo tackles.
Coast Guard got the ball first and had a 15-play drive which resulted in a 20-yard field goal by junior Cole Austin with 8:16 left in the opening quarter.
The Mariners would take the lead on its first possession and got its first lucky bounce of the afternoon when junior fullback Wiley Martin fumbled as he neared the end zone, but Vitelli fell on it for the touchdown and 7-3 lead with 5:54 left in the first quarter.
Coast Guard appeared to answer and take the lead 10-7 on a 72-yard touchdown pass to Adams, but a hold call would negate the touchdown.
The Bears punted and the senior fullback Luke Tiefenthaler's 4-yard run capped a 15 play, 71-yard drive making the score 14-3 with 24 seconds left in the first quarter.
Merchant Marine would score again on its third straight possession to start the game when Martin's 2-yard run pushed the lead to 21-3 with 9:07 left in the half.
Coast Guard would get its first touchdown of the game on a 36-yard touchdown pass from Jones to Adams with 5:48 left in the half to make it 21-10 at halftime.