KINGS POINT, N.Y. – After that heart-stopping, dramatic, come-from-behind win over archrival Coast Guard last Saturday, how does the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy get motivated for its next opponent?
"It's SUNY," Kings Point head coach Mike Toop said, meaning SUNY-Maritime, yet another archrival the Mariners (1-1) take will face, across Long Island Sound in Throggs Neck, N.Y. at 1 p.m. Saturday.
"The guys know that we lost," Toop added. "If that doesn't get them motivated, then we've got no chance."
The Mariners (1-1), who are coming off a 35-28 triumph, have lost two close encounters to the Privateers (1-1) in their only meetings. They lost in overtime in 2009, 28-21, and at home last year, 41-34, in a confrontation that went down to Maritime stopping Kings Point four times inside the 10-yard line on the final plays.
In some respects, the teams are similar. They both run the same, ball-control, ground attack.
"The one good thing is hopefully the game will be over in an hour and half," Toop said.
Kings Point and Maritime also are like institutions, preparing young men and women for careers at sea.
"We both have extremely competitive kids, tough kids, kids who aren't going to quit," Toop said. "It's an extremely intense rival, parallels Coast Guard in that respect. Both games the last two years literally got down to the last play. Overtime two years ago. Last year, the last play on the goal line. It's going to be tough."
Big things are expected of the Privateers this season. They return nine starters on offense and another nine on defense from a 10-1 team that went undefeated in the regular season and captured the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference title before losing in the Division III playoffs.
Maritime kicked off its season with a 50-3 loss to Bentley on Sept. 2, but rebounded with a 48-0 victory over Western Connecticut Saturday. Senior running back Jamie Spanopoulous leads the rushing game with 147 yards for a 4.7 average and four touchdowns. Sophomore quarterback Tyler Trodden has run for 118 yards for a 5.9 averages. The Privateers have passed only 22 times in two games, completing eight.
"They've got a lot of kids back," Toop said. "They are very, very solid performers across the board. It's not like we're focusing on any one kid. Offensively, anyone of their kids can beat us. They beat us last year, where they threw the ball and scored. They ran the ball, fullback, quarterback, and slots. There isn't any one kid we're' going to focus on. Usually in this kind of offense, if you can focus on one fullback, the quarterback and try to take something away, you have a better chance. I don't think we do. So we've got to be consistent across the board defensively."
Toop has been heartened by the play of his offensive line, particularly a plebe, freshman guard Jacob Margrey (Baldwinsville, N.Y.) who has acquitted himself well as a two-game starter.
"Stepping into the fire like he has been our most consistent offensive lineman," he said.
On the other side of the ball, senior linebacker Kevin Stapf (Fort Pierce, Fla.) has been the most consistent performer, "playing the way we expect him to," Toop said.
After surrendering 73 points in their first two games, the Mariners certainly know there is room for improvement.
"The defense has got to play better," Toop said. "Last week we get the lead in the fourth quarter, we can't give it up. The trademark of a good defense once you get the lead, especially in the second half, you're not going to give it up. We did that last week and that's something we can't allow."