Crowley's return paces Coast Guard past Maine Maritime 36-30
By NED GRIFFEN | The Day | Published: October 2, 2016
NEW LONDON, Conn. (Tribune News Service) -- Chip Crowley was beaming as he stood on Cadet Memorial Field for a photo after Coast Guard Academy's football game Saturday.
Flanking Crowley for his photo -- Commandant of the Coast Guard Admiral Paul F. Zukunft, and Rear Admiral James Rendon, Coast Guard's superintendent.
"I was a little star struck," Crowley said. "That was a really awesome opportunity."
One changes the game, one earns the photo-op. Crowley's 88-yard kickoff return late in the first half tilted the game the Bears' way in their 36-30 win over Maine Maritime Academy in the New England Football Conference.
Coast Guard is 2-3 (1-3).
The Mariners -- a triple-option team -- had just hit Coast Guard with a 72-yard touchdown pass to cut the Bears' lead to 22-16 with one minute, 32 seconds left in the second quarter.
Crowley fielded the ensuing kickoff at the CGA 12. He veered left, found a crease, and darted down the Coast Guard sideline for the touchdown.
"Right before (the kickoff), I was talking to the guys," Crowley said. "They said, 'This hole is wide open.' I hit it just at the right time. They did a great job blocking for me. It was just a great team effort there.
"I missed the first (return). I'm glad I hit it the second time."
Cole Austin's extra point pushed the Bears ahead, 29-16, with 1:21 remaining in the half.
"We had our chance to go down and score (from the Mariners' 32)," Coast Guard head coach Bill George said. "We didn't cash it in, and then they come down and score and you're thinking, 'Oh, my God.'
"I think if (the kickoff return) hadn't happened, (Maine Maritime) would've had a huge -- and I'm big on this -- halftime push coming out of that locker room. That was crucial."
George may be on to something as the Bears scored on their first drive of the second half. Camden Cecchini ran for a 3-yard run touchdown as Coast Guard built its lead to 36-16 less than four minutes into third quarter.
"That was a big drive," George said. "We've had some good first second-half drives against Marine Maritime over the years. I don't know why.
"We needed that good drive coming out of the half."
Crowley's kickoff return was also important because the Bears needed to sneak an extra touchdown in somewhere. Both teams scored four times with the Mariners outgaining the Bears, 436-339 (a 6-to-4.6 yard per play advantage).
"You can go three or four seasons without a kickoff return for a touchdown," George said, "and then when you get one, it's in a game that's not a close game."
Derek Victory completed 28 of 49 passes for 290 yards and two touchdowns. He also scored on a 1-yard run, and his two TD passes tied Jon Resch (2009-12) for the career record (38).
Darius Adams had eight catches for 103 yards and a touchdown for the Bears. Cody Bain had six catches for 92 yards and a score, and Crowley added seven catches for 54 yards.
Corey Creeger completed 7 of 15 passes for 229 yards with three touchdowns and an interception and also scored on a 1-yard run for Maine Maritime (1-3, 0-2). Jordan Susi (four catches, 136 yards, two touchdowns) and Derek Breunig (three catches, 93 yards, one touchdown) were his top targets.
"They threw more than any option team ever did," George quipped.
"The defense came up big when they needed to. We struggled with some stuff. We're a young team. We're a very young defense, but they came through."
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