CASTINE – With winds gusting up to 45 mph and steady rain soaking everything not under cover, passing accuracy and sure footing were as hard to get as points on the Ritchie Field turf Saturday afternoon.
Points were at such a premium that the Coast Guard Academy was able to all but clinch first place in the Bogan Division of the Northeast Football Conference with just a field goal in a 3-0 victory over Maine Maritime Academy.
“We knew there wouldn’t be a lot of points in this game,” said Bears sophomore quarterback Niles Pierson. “The thing we had to do today was hold onto the ball in this weather, but I think the big thing is our defense was amazing. Our defense is what won us the game.”
The Bears gave up 224 rushing yards, but only 235 total. They also limited the Mariners to just three incursions beyond the 50-yard line – two of which only got as far as the CGA 49.
In fact, the closest MMA got to the end zone was the CGA 32, on the Mariners’ third-to-last drive. With 15 minutes left in the game, MMA took over on its own 5 and drove 62 yards on 10 plays to the 33, but on fourth-and-two, MMA quarterback Brandon Hamilton took the ball off left tackle and was met by Jack Gill – one yard short of a first down with 10 minutes left.
The Mariners accumulated 14 first downs to CGA’s 12, but they just couldn’t crack the Bears’ bend-but-don’t-break defensive effort.
“We have just played so well defensively the last few weeks, starting with the Bridgewater game,” said coach Bill George, whose Bears improved to 7-1 overall and 6-0 in the division. “We lost eight defensive starters from last year and we have four freshmen starting, but as we get more experience, our confidence increases.”
The Mariners’ last-gasp effort was hastened by CGA linebacker Tim Leber, who sacked Hamilton for an 8-yard loss on first down at the MMA 33 and then tackled him for no gain on second down at the 25.
“That was just great. I was just thinking about trying to make a play,” said Leber (11 tackles, two sacks). “It was a blitz and I got in there and I had my eyes on the quarterback.”
An incompletion later, Cosimo Cambi intercepted Hamilton’s pass over the middle and brought it back to the MMA 25 to salt the win away.
Josh Williams led the Bears offensively with 85 yards on 11 carries, but it was Pierson’s passing that gave the Bears a slight edge that made all the difference.
Pierson, getting his first start in place of injured QB Christian George, had three of his six completions in the game’s definitive drive: a 17-play, 58-yard drive eating up 6 1/2 minutes on the game clock. It ended with David Lieberman’s 20-yard field goal with 6:05 left in the first half.
Pierson completed a 17-yard pass on third-and-13, a 16-yarder on second-and-12, and a 9-yarder on third-and-four during the drive.
MMA coach Chris McKenney said Pierson didn’t pose any problems from a scouting perspective. He just executed plays when he needed to.
“We saw him on film because he’s been in games, but they also have some good backs and a lot of other people supporting them to get them where they are,” said McKenney, whose team is now 5-3 overall and 4-2 in division play.
The Mariners were led by Jim Bower, who had a game-high 104 yards on 19 carries, and Hamilton, who tallied 96 yards on 31 carries.
Gill led CGA with 11 1/2 tackles and a sack. Bangor’s Joe Blier led MMA with 7 1/2 tackles.
BEARS 3, MARINERS 0
Coast Guard (7-1) 0 3 0 0 – 3
Maine Maritime (5-3) 0 0 0 0 – 0
CGA – Lieberman 20 field goal
First downs 12 14
Rushing att.-yards 40-177 55-224
Passing comp.-att. 6-18 1-9
Passing yards 73 11
Total yards 250 235
Punts-avg. 7-43.1 8-33.1
Fumbles-lost 1-1 2-2
Intercepted by 1 0
Penalties-yards 8-61 1-5
Coast Guard Acad.: Williams 11-77, Lynch 11-69, Arguelles 7-24, Pierson 9-10, Di Nino 1-(minus 1), Miller 1-(minus 2); Maine Maritime Acad.: Bower 19-104, Hamilton 31-96, Goodrich 3-18, Farrin 1-4, Rackliff 1-2
CGA: Pierson 6-18-0-73; MMA: Brand 1-9-1-11
CGA: Wyrick 4-46, Lynch 2-27; MMA: Markie 1-11