Coast Guard Academy seniors will play in their 'biggest game,' face Merchant Marine on Saturday

By VICKIE FULKERSON | The Day | Published: November 16, 2019

NEW LONDON, Conn. (Tribune News Service) — Ryan Jones spent his freshman football season at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy on the sideline wearing a headset that was a decoy.

"I wore a headset that wasn't plugged into anything," Jones, the starting quarterback, said with a laugh at this week's team football luncheon. "I gave fake signals. I got a little too creative sometimes."

Mike Goldsworthy had one responsibility as a freshman. He downed punts.

"Now, we have to be mentors to people," Goldsworthy said. "People are looking at us."

Now, this.

Jones and Goldsworthy are two of Coast Guard's 16 seniors who will end their careers in Saturday's Secretaries' Cup matchup with the rival Merchant Marine Academy. The game, beginning at noon at Cadet Memorial Field, will be televised for the third straight season on ESPN3.

Jones is the starting quarterback for the Bears (5-4 overall, 2-4 New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference) and this season became one of the program's four 4,000-yard passers of all-time.

Goldsworthy is a cornerback, who has one interception this season which he returned 53 yards, seven pass breakups (second on the team) and blocked a punt which led to Coast Guard's win in the season opener at the University of New England.

The pair will play in the final game for 21-year head coach Bill George, who earlier this week announced his intention to retire following the season.

Jones and Goldsworthy room together, along with fellow senior Liam Middleton.

And together they are an example of Coast Guard players who are not necessarily senior captains — RJ Robiskie, Mark Wicke and Scott Pierce serve in that role — but who gradually grow into senior leaders before being commissioned as officers on graduation day.

"People become leaders here," George said. "It's a natural thing. That's the nature of this place. It's emphasized here so much more.

"A lot of people have this stereotype that the military is all the same. But it's diverse. Everybody leads in their own way. People rise up on the field ability-wise and I think the same thing happens to you as a person. Some people are rah-rah leaders. Some people are quiet leaders. There's no definition."

Goldsworthy and Jones have affected each other as roommates this semester, they said.

"He's a little more outgoing and free and lives day-by-day," Goldsworthy said of Jones. "He showed me how to make it to formation in the morning and remember what assignments I have due."

"It just kind of happens," Jones said. "People are looking at you, looking to see, to ask 'what's next?' ... Before they trusted me with something that wasn't plugged in. Now they trust me with the offense. It's a pretty cool change to see in yourself. There's a ton of good people here. I've enjoyed the process so much, growing up with these guys."

The seniors who will finish their careers are Pat Crowley (defensive back), Jones, Austin Haynia (defensive back), Miguel Moroles (wide receiver), Middleton (wide receiver), Goldsworthy, Chris Hicks (defensive back), Wicke (defensive back), Dan Dinges (linebacker), Kane Allezthauser (linebacker), Robiskie (defensive line), Pierce (tight end), Connor Schmitt (linebacker), Colton Rausch (offensive line), Jared Gee (offensive line) and Colby LaDuque (defensive line).

Merchant Marine (5-3, 4-2) leads the series 32-15 and has won eight of the last 11 meetings. The Bears, however, won last year 26-12 at Merchant Marine, spoiling the Mariners' hopes of sharing the NEWMAC title.

Jones was 22-for-42 for 269 yards, three touchdowns and an interception, while the defense held Merchant Marine to 58 yards in the second half and intercepted the Mariners three times in a span of 2:27 in the fourth quarter.

"It definitely is the biggest game we'll ever play in. We have a great senior class," Goldsworthy said.

"To win, it's just like a relief," Jones said, thinking back to a year ago. "You have a lot of pressure in that game. The corps, we had this pep rally and you've asked them to get all hyped up. If you lose, it's not a good look for you. We want to leave the seniors with something to remember."

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