GAME #8: Coast Guard Academy (6-1, FFC 3-0) at Plymouth State College (6-1, FFC 4-0)
Sat., Nov. 1, 1997, 1:00 p.m., Currier Field, Plymouth, NH
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – Freedom Football Conference title implications, regional rankings and polls, and NCAA and ECAC berths could all be at stake Saturday when Plymouth State College hosts the Coast Guard Academy.
The Panthers and Bears will kick off Saturday at 1:00 p.m. at Currier Field. Plymouth State and Coast Guard both bring 6-1 records into the game, and the two schools are ranked 1-2 in this week’s ECAC Division III New England Poll. In fact, Coast Guard held down the top spot for several weeks before PSC grabbed the top spot this week.
The game also features the only unbeaten teams in the Freedom Football Conference. PSC, 4-0 in the conference, can clinch at least a share of its third FFC title in four years with a win, while Coast Guard, 3-0, wants to keep alive its chances at a second consecutive championship.
With the playoff season approaching, both teams are also eyeing post-season spots. Plymouth State, with five straight wins, has moved up to fourth in the NCAA East Region poll, and has sights set on a third NCAA berth in four years. Coast Guard, an NCAA Tournament team last season, won its first six games this season and was as high as third in the NCAA East Region (Oct. 20th), but dropped out of the top six after a 14-6 loss to Union last week and is now one of next six teams receiving consideration. If either team falls short of an NCAA bid, ECAC berths are strong possibilities.
“We have tried to take every game one game at a time,” said PSC head coach Mike Kemp. “We can’t be thinking about polls or rankings or play-offs, we have to be thinking about Coast Guard. Both teams are having outstanding seasons, and it should be a great football game. This is what college football is all about.”
Saturday will be just the seventh meeting between PSC and Coast Guard, with the Panthers holding a 4-2 advantage in the series. Coast Guard won the first encounter in an ECAC Championship game in 1988, breaking PSC’s school-record 20-game winning streak. Plymouth State won the next four games in the series from 1992-95 after the teams joined the FFC, prior to the Bears winning last year in New London, 35-28. PSC is 2-1 vs. Coast Guard at Panther Field, losing 28-19 in the ECAC game in 1988, but winning 31-14 in 1993 and 9-2 in 1995.
LAST WEEK: Plymouth State overcame rainy and cold weather at Bridgewater to hold on for a 15-9 win. RB Jose Raymond scored a touchdown on PSC’s first possession, and finished with a career-high 143 yards on 31 carries to earn FFC Co-Rookie of the Week and ECAC New England Honor Roll recognition. DE Kevin Hebert led a defensive stand that limited Bridgewater to 180 yards of offense. Hebert spent the afternoon in the BSC backfield, making 11 tackles (seven unassisted) with five tackles for minus 17 yards, along with breaking up a pass and recovering a fumble, and was named ECAC/Budget New England Defensive Player of the Week and FFC Co-Defensive Player of the Week. QB Josh Norse completed only 4-of-17 passes in the quagmire, but one was a 20-yard second quarter TD strike to TE John Andrewes, which turned out to be the game-winner.
TOP NOTCH DEFENSE: The Panther defense continues to lead the FFC in all four defensive categories – scoring (11.0 pts/gm), rushing (94.1 yds/gm), passing (83.5 rating) and total defense (229.6 yds/gm). In last week’s NCAA Division III statistics, PSC was tied for 16th in total defense, 19th in passing efficiency defense, and 11th in scoring defense.
AMONG THE FFC LEADERS: PSC is again prominent among individual leaders of the FFC. CB Marc Turcotte picked off two passes last week and has the conference lead with six interceptions, PK Paul D’Ascoli (career 23-41 FG, 100-110 PAT) is the FFC’s second-highest scoring kicker, and QB Josh Norse is second in total offense (193.3 yds/gm) and third in passing (119.4 rating). TB Jose Raymond, who has scored a touchdown in all seven PSC games this season, is leading the league in rushing (88.4 yds/gm) and third in scoring (6.9 pts/gm). WR/KR Brent Bardellini appears among the FFC leaders in punt returns, kick returns, receiving yards, and all-purpose yards, and WR Charlie Schubert on the list of top FFC receivers in receptions and receiving yards.
PSC AT CURRIER FIELD: Plymouth State continues to have outstanding success at Currier Field, named after former PSC football coach Charles Currier. PSC has an all-time 103-30-3 overall home record for a .768 winning percentage. The Panthers are 4-0 this season at Currier Field, 7-1 under Mike Kemp (.875), 21-4 the last four years (.840), and 30-9-1 in the ‘90s (.763).
1997 ECAC New England Division III Poll
Team (1st place votes) Record Points
1. Plymouth State (15) 6-1 156
2. Coast Guard (1) 6-1 131
3. Amherst 6-0 123
4. Williams 6-0 113
5. UMass Dartmouth 6-1 82
6. Bridgewater State 5-2 60
7. Trinity 5-1 52
(tie) Wesleyan 5-1 52
9. Worcester State 5-2 34
10. Springfield 3-4 29
Also Receiving Votes: Western Connecticut (20, Salve Regina (20).
HEAD COACH MIKE KEMP: Plymouth State is in Year Two under head coach Mike Kemp. A 1975 graduate of the University of Notre Dame, Kemp joined the PSC staff in ’96, his first head coaching position, after serving as an assistant coach at several schools, most recently Cortland State. Kemp has guided PSC to an 10-5 record in his first two seasons.
PSC’S WEEKLY HONORS: Plymouth State is a regular name when it comes to weekly conference and regional honors. Here is a list of PSC’s weekly honorees:
Sept. 14 — Josh Norse, ECAC, FFC Honor Rolls; Brent Bardellini, FB Gazette (National), FFC Special Teams Player of the Week; John McLaughlin, FFC Honor Roll; Sept. 21 — Dave Gibson, FFC Honor Roll; Jose Raymond, FFC Honor Roll; Sept. 28 — Josh Norse, ECAC, FFC Honor Roll; Dave Gibson, FFC Honor Roll; Matt Botz, FFC Honor Roll; Oct. 5 — Paul D’Ascoli, ECAC Honor Roll, FFC Special Teams Player of the Week; Jose Raymond, FFC Rookie of the Week; Rocky Criscone, FFC Honor Roll; Oct. 12 – Dave Gibson, ECAC Honor Roll, FFC Defensive Player of the Week; Jose Raymond, FFC Honor Roll; Oct. 19 – Josh Norse, FFC Offensive Player of the Week; Dave Gibson, Jose Raymond, FFC Honor Roll; Oct. 26 – Kevin Hebert, ECAC/Budget New England Regional Defensive Player of the Week and FFC Co-Defensive Player of the Week; Jose Raymond, FFC Co-Rookie of the Week, ECAC Honor Roll.
PANTHER FB HISTORY: Plymouth State entered 1997, its 28th season as a varsity program, as the winningest Division III college football program in the nation with an all-time winning percentage of .707 (W-179, L-72, T-7). Wisconsin-Lacrosse is second (.698 in 72 years), followed by St. Johns, MN (.678 in 86 years), Ithaca (.647 in 64 years), and Wittenberg (.639 in 103 years).
ON THE AIR: Plymouth State had three games televised this season. WMUR-TV, the ABC affiliate from Manchester, NH, broadcasted the opener against Maine Maritime on Sept. 13th, and the Homecoming match-up against Springfield on Oct. 18th. The Oct. 4th contest at Currier Field against Western Connecticut was the ECAC Game of the Week, and was broadcast tape-delay on the New England Sports Network (NESN).
A LOOK AHEAD: Plymouth State plays its final two games on the road, renewing the series against Curry College (after a six-year hiatus) next Saturday in Milton, Mass., and wrapping up the regular season at conference foe WPI on Nov. 15th. Coast Guard returns home for its last two games, a pair of FFC battles against WPI (next Saturday) and Kings Point (in two weeks). The NCAA Division III Championship bids are announced on Sunday, Nov. 16th, and the ECAC Championship berths shortly thereafter.