Kings Point, NY – The Merchant Marine football team racked up 304 rushing yards, including 134 and a pair of touchdowns from Luke Stidham (Baltimore, MD), en route to a 19-14 triumph over the Maritime Privateers Saturday afternoon at Brooks Stadium. The Mariners dominated the Privateers in time of possession, holding the ball for 37:52 and limiting the Maritime offense to 244 total yards. USMMA also had a pair of key kick-off returns from its special teams unit as Connor Kennedy (Bellerose, NY) and Matthew McDaniels (Malverne, NY) both brought a kick-off into Maritime territory. The victory also marks the first time that the Mariners have defeated their Throggs Neck Bridge rival.
Maritime (1-1) struck early as Tyler Trodden hooked up with Anthony Patti for a 66-yard touchdown pass on the third play from scrimmage. McDaniels immediately took the momentum back for the Mariners as he rumbled 53-yards with the ensuing kick-off, down to the Maritime 36-yard line. However, USMMA's opening drive would end in a missed field goal attempt from 30-yards out.
Merchant Marine (2-1) would eventually level the game with 3:41 to play in the first quarter. Stidham found his way into the end zone on an eight-yard touchdown run that capped an 11-play drive. Kicker Daniel Kennedy (Youngstown, OH) redeemed his earlier miss by hitting the PAT to tie the game despite being bumped back five yards following a USMMA penalty.
Skyler Stone (Glen Allen, VA) came up with an interception on a deep pass to halt a Maritime drive in the second quarter. Neither team would be able to dent the scoreboard again in the first half as the two sides went into the locker room tied at 7-7.
USMMA was forced to punt in its first possession of the second half but the return was muffed, allowing Kenneth Filiaggi (Forest Hill, MD) to dive on the loose ball and give the Mariners excellent field position. Three plays later, John-Leon Gosselin (Nashua, NH) saved the drive with a power run to convert on fourth and one. Merchant Marine finished the game four-of-six on fourth down conversions. Stidham made the Privateers pay for the turnover, diving across the goal line on a quarterback keeper to push the home side in front, 13-7.
The Privateers' offense was then forced off the field in three plays but a booming 76-yard punt sent the Mariners to work at the 20-yard line. USMMA again mounted a long, dominant drive but this time would be unable to come away with points, turning the ball over on downs. After another defensive stop the Mariners were able to get back in field goal position, this time sending out Daniel Kennedy on fourth down to attempt a 28-yard field goal. The freshman split the uprights to give Merchant Marine a two score cushion at 16-7.
Maritime cut into the gap with 4:21 to play in regulation on a Gary Bingham three-yard TD scamper that moved the score to 16-14, USMMA. However, that's when Connor Kennedy struck for a 76-yard kick-off return up the left side line. The Mariners would keep the ball on the ground and force the visitors to burn through two of their timeouts. Daniel Kennedy came on again, this time hammering home a 27-yard field goal to make it a 19-14 affair.
The Merchant Marine defense would then come through in the clutch, forcing the Privateers to turn the ball over on downs without once moving the chains. Stidham iced the game with a 14-yard carry on fourth down that allowed the Mariners to run out the clock and secure the 19-14 victory.
Michael Biehn (The Woodlands, TX) paced the USMMA defense with nine tackles while Andrew Harmon (Jacksonville, FL) recorded a couple of break-ups in the secondary. Gosselin rounded out the day with 87-yards from scrimmage while Connor Kennedy had 57-yards on his seven carries.
The Merchant Marine football team returns to action on the road next weekend as they travel to face defending league champion and preseason favorite Hobart. Kick-off is set for 1:00 pm.