KINGS POINT, N.Y. – The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy could not have asked for a more dramatic and exciting ending to the annual Secretaries' Cup on Saturday.
Sophomore wide receiver Chase Dunn (Dade City, Fla.) caught his third touchdown pass of the afternoon, a 32-yard throw from junior quarterback Stephen Sasso (Phoenix, Ariz.) with eight seconds remaining in regulation to lift Kings Point to a 35-28 triumph over archrival Coast Guard.
The Mariners overcame a pair of sizeable deficits to pull off the win, 14-0 early in the second quarter and 21-10 in the third quarter to climax a wild game and an emotional day before a crowd of 2,500 at Tomb Field.
After dropping a 10-8 decision to the Bears last year, the Mariners won back the Secretaries Cup as they extended their lead in the competition, 20-11. Kings Point also leads the all-time series between the two rival academies, 27-13.
"It was a typical game between these two institutions where it usually comes down to the last minute and it did today," Kings Point head coach Mike Toop said.
After dropping their season opener to Johns Hopkins last week, 45-14, the Mariners needed a win.
"It's huge," Toop said. "Obviously down 14-0 and even down at the half, getting into the fourth quarter and being down, it just shows the resiliency. Even their kids. We take the lead with a couple of minutes left and its third and 20 and they convert and they tie. You expect that from these types of kids. I expect it. Our kids are never going to give up and they showed it today."
Junior running back John-Leon Gosselin (Nashua, N.H.) ran for 210 yards on 32 carries, which included a 63-yard run that set up J.P. Bourquin's 22-yard field goal in the second quarter – the freshman from Oviedo, Fla. Added a 38-yarder with 14 seconds left in the third period. Sasso came off the bench to complete five-of-10 passes for 196 yards, including an 80-yard TD to Dunn. All three of Dunn's receptions results in TDs, including a 67-yard caught for Merchant Marine's first score in the opening quarter.
The Mariners, who amassed 503 total yards, struck for three TDs in the third and fourth quarters.
They grabbed a 28-21 lead with Michael Mitchel's two-yard run and Matthew Bozich's two-point conversion with 10:28 remaining in the fourth period. But the Bears tied it on Jarrod Owens' three-yard run and extra period with 1:53 left.
With 15 seconds remaining in regulation, the Mariners found themselves with the ball at the Coast Guard 32-yard line. Instead of trying to get into better field position, Toop decided to go for it all.
"We felt maybe they were probably going to play knowing that we were looking for maybe 15 yards to get a field goal, something in his range," he said. "We said, 'If you're going to go deep, just make sure you throw it up there where he can go up and get or no one can.' Dunn went up and got it, flat out."
Dunn outleaped two defenders for the ball.
The Mariners (1-1) faced an uphill battle early as a pair of Eric Gerken TD's – a fumble recovery in the end zone with 5:06 left in the first quarter and a 25-yard TD reception from Owens with 14:53 remaining in the second quarter – gave the visitors a 14-0 advantage.
"Obviously, you never like to be in that situation," Toop said. "But we kind of gained our composure a little bit, especially on defense. I thought our kids settled down a little bit defensively and started to play. We hit the big play offensively and that got us back into the game. It got the kids some confidence and we started to run our offense little bit more effectively."