DALLAS, Pa. (Sept. 1, 2018) – The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy football team won its season-opener on Saturday afternoon on the road at Misericordia University. The Mariners defeated the Cougars by the final score of 30-9, marking the sixth-straight season that USMMA began the year with a victory.
The two teams traded fumbles early in the first quarter, and the Mariners fell behind 3-0 after a 37-yard field goal by Misericordia late in the first. They answered on the next possession when junior quarterback Krystian Abbott (Lansing, Kan.) ran in a five-yard TD at 13:54 of the second quarter. Classmate Gavin Gartner (Cedar Park, Texas) converted the extra point to put Merchant Marine ahead 7-6.
After both teams had drives that ended in punts, the Cougars pulled to within one point on another field goal, this from 17 yards. USMMA struck right back, as Gartner nailed a 24-yard field goal as time expired in the first half, giving the Mariners a 10-6 lead going into the halftime break.
Misericordia kicked its third field goal of the day, a 23-yarder, at 11:11 of the third to open the scoring in the second half. That was all the Cougars' offense could put up in the second half, however, as the Mariner defense forced the hosts to punt the rest of their possessions (with a failed fourth-down conversion on the final fourth-quarter drive), and USMMA allowed just three first downs the remainder of the game.
Senior fullbacks Joseph Bellomo (Holliston, Mass.) and Wiley Martin (Polo, Mo.) added short TD runs in the third and fourth quarters, respectively, to put the Mariners ahead 23-9, and the final nail in the coffin came on a 55-yard rush by freshman Alec Kiernan (Centereach, N.Y.) at 4:53 of the final quarter.
Abbott finished the day as the game's leading rusher with 92 yards on 22 carries. Kiernan was right behind with 90 yards on just six carries.
Defensively, sophomore Dan Walsh (Margate, N.J.) led Merchant Marine with seven tackles, including one for a loss of seven yards and a half-sack. Senior Jacob Davis (East Chatham, N.Y.), junior Reno Dubreuil (Moorpark, Calif.) and sophomore Noah Newburgh (Gilbert, Ariz.) all had five tackles apiece, with Davis tallying 1.5 tackles for losses of five yards and a half-sack.
Senior Trever Huss (Orange City, Iowa) forced the first-quarter fumble and it was recovered by senior Charles Deegan (Huntington, N.Y.). Deegan ended the day with two tackles, both for losses of combined 19 yards, including a sack for a loss of 17 yards in the third quarter.
On special teams, freshman Jack Ruark (Urbanna, Va.) averaged 38.7 yards on three punts with a long of 50 yards and junior Joe Vitelli (Warrington, Pa.) returned four kickoffs for an average of 35.8 yards, including a long of 46 yards.
The Cougars were led by junior quarterback Brady Williams, who was 19-for-33 passing for 238 yards. Senior Sam Gillison made a team-high seven catches and tallied 108 receiving yards. Junior kicker Matt Dinnocenti was 3-for-3 on his field goal attempts, accounting for all nine of Misericordia's points on the day.
Three defenders recorded double-digit tackles for the home team, as junior Nick Yeager led all players in the game with 13 stops, sophomore John Pearson had 11 tackles and classmate Zack Smith registered 10. Senior Joseph Grasso forced and recovered the fumble in the first quarter.
The Mariners have a bye week next weekend and will return to action on the road on Friday night, Sept. 14, in the Battle of the Throgs Neck Bridge against rival SUNY Maritime. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at the Privateers' Reinhart Field. Live links to follow along with the action will be available later this week on the USMMA Football Schedule Page.
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