Recap written by Sean Engel.
CASTINE, Maine (Sept. 28, 2019) – For the second time in three season, the USMMA football team tied the Academy record for points in a game, as the Mariners defeated Maine Maritime, 62-13, on Saturday up at Ritchie Field in Maine in both teams' NEWMAC-opener.
The 62 points is the team's highest output since Nov. 4, 2017, when the Mariners put up the same number against Catholic in the final home game of the season that year. This win today was also the seventh largest margin of victory in Academy history (49 points).
Merchant Marine (2-1, 1-0 NEWMAC) registered 600 yards of total offense, while the defense was able to hold Maine Maritime (0-4, 0-1 NEWMAC) down to just 274 yards. Merchant Marine notched 27 first downs to Maine Maritime's 14, while time of possession was in favor of USMMA at 32:55 to 27:05.
The offense had 10 individuals register positive rushing yards on the day, led by freshman Maxwell Michaels (Fleming Island, Fla.), who tallied a game-high 126 yards on nine carries while scoring one touchdown. Sophomore Matt Strong (Pacific, Mo.) was second on the team with 78 yards on five carries while also finding the end zone once. Junior Matt Restifo (Hudson, Ohio) had five carries for 75 yards, including a team-best 48-yard carry and he also scored one touchdown on the afternoon.
Senior Krystian Abbott (Lansing, Kan.) led all rushers with 11 carries and two scores, as he ran the ball for 65 yards on the afternoon. Seniors James Early (Middletown, Md.) and Tyler Reihs (Moorpark, Calif.), as well as sophomores Ian Blankenship (McRae, Ga.) and Mark Thompson (McKinney, Texas) all registered rushing touchdowns on the day, as the team totaled nine rushing scores in the game. Sophomore Alec Kiernan (Centereach, N.Y.) added 40 yards on the ground, while freshman Jackson Morgan (Virginia Beach, Va.) produced an additional 40 yards on seven handoffs.
Abbott only needed to attempt four passes on the afternoon and completed three for a total of 115 yards, including a 51-yard hookup with senior Joe Vitelli (Warrington, Pa.). Two of Abbott's completions went to Vitelli for a total of 86 yards, while the third completion went to Reihs for a 29-yard gain.
Defensively, Merchant Marine had 24 different student-athletes earn statistics with freshman Charles Mustain (Oro Valley, Ariz.) leading the way with five tackles, while junior Jayden Fernandez (Bremerton, Wash.) was second on the team with four tackles. USMMA added one sack, as freshman Colton Ray (Bellevue, Ohio) registered his first career sack for a loss in six yards.
Freshman Clayton Williams (Poulsbo, Wash.) had the defense's lone interception with a return of 10 yards on the pick, while Merchant Marine was credited with three pass breakups on the afternoon including a pair by senior Tanner Carter (Columbiana, Ala.).
Senior Gavin Gartner (Cedar Park, Texas) converted on eight extra-point attempts, while he also added 543 yards on 10 kickoffs including four touchbacks. Sophomore Jack Ruark (Urbanna, Va.) registered two punts for 56 yards including one pinned inside the 20-yard line of Maine Maritime.
On returns, Strong had just one kickoff return for 36 yards, while Vitelli had a pair of punt returns for eight and five yards, respectively.
Maine Maritime won the coin toss and deferred to the second half, giving Merchant Marine an opportunity to score first. It didn't take long to score as USMMA needed five plays to go 75 yards, including the 51-yard pass from Abbott to Vitelli, before a three-yard run by Abbott put Merchant Marine on the board.
The defense forced a punt on its first opportunity of the game as USMMA got the ball back with 9:53 to go in the opening quarter. The Mariners had three players for 10-plus yards including a 38-yard dash by Strong, to push the ball deep into Maine Maritime territory. Two plays after the long rush, Michaels buried the ball into the end zone to Merchant Marine ahead by two scores following the Gartner extra point.
Another quick three-and-out forced by the defense once again resulted in a touchdown for Merchant Marine, as Abbott scored his second touchdown of the afternoon on a three-yard run to put the Mariners ahead by a 21-0 score.
Early scored on a one-yard touchdown run on the next offensive possession to increase Merchant Marine's lead to 28. On the very next play by Maine Maritime, Williams intercepted a pass to quickly short-circuit the MMA drive and give the ball back to Merchant Marine with 19 seconds to go in the opening quarter.
Following the first non-scoring possession for the Merchant Marine offense, the defense yielded just three yards on three plays to open the second quarter and forced Maine Maritime to punt once again.
The next Merchant Marine possession resulted in another touchdown, as it was Strong to score on a three-yard rush to increase the Mariner lead to 35-0.
After another punt by Maine Maritime, the USMMA offense did not need long to score again as Restifo was handed the ball on the first snap of the series and took off for a 48-yard score to increase the lead to 42.
Merchant Marine scored one more touchdown before the half on a 13-yard run by Reihs as the rout was on with USMMA ahead by a 49-0 score heading into the halftime break.
In the third quarter, Merchant Marine's defense picked right back where it had left off, forcing a quick three-and-out against the Maine Maritime offense. It was Blankenship's turn to score on Merchant Marine's first offensive series of the second half as his four-yard rushing TD made the score 55-0.
Maine Maritime was able to get on the board with a 10-play, 77-yard drive, resulting in a touchdown, but the extra point was blocked to keep the score at 55-9 in favor of USMMA.
As play shifted to the fourth quarter the Mariner offense got right back to work, as Thompson scored the ninth Merchant Marine touchdown with a Gartner extra point to make the score 62-6.
Maine Maritime turned the ball over on downs following a lengthy 14-play series, before Merchant Marine punted for just the second time on the afternoon. Maine Maritime added a late touchdown with less than a minute to go to close out the scoring on the afternoon by a 62-13 score.
Merchant Marine will return home to the friendly confines of Tomb Field at Brooks Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 5, when the Mariners hosts MIT for another NEWMAC contest. Kickoff is slated for 12-noon. Live stats and a live video feed of the game will be available with links on the USMMA Football Schedule Page.
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