GAME #8: U.S. Coast Guard Academy (1-6, 1-2 FFC) at Plymouth State College (4-3, FFC 2-2)
Sat., Oct. 30, 1999, 12:00 p.m., Currier Field, Plymouth, N.H.
PLYMOUTH, N.H. - It will be a Freedom Football Conference affair Saturday at Currier Field when Plymouth State College hosts the Coast Guard Academy in the last home game of the season.
The Panthers and Bears will kick off at 12 noon Saturday in a battle of first-year head coaches. PSC kept its post-season hopes alive under coach Chris Rorke last weekend with a 17-12 non-conference victory at Bentley College. The Bears have struggled under coach Bill George, winning only once in seven outings. Coast Guard, in fact, is working with its fourth head coach in as many years.
Plymouth State, 4-3 overall and 2-2 in the FFC, has alternated wins and losses in the first seven weeks, but is looking for a strong finish for a possible ECAC post-season berth for the third straight season. PSC owns the second-ranked defense in the FFC, allowing 282 yards per game, and the fifth-ranked offense, gaining 305 yards a contest.
The Panther defensive unit returned to form last weekend at Bentley, holding a powerful Falcon offense to a minus-five yards rushing. PSC sacked Bentley quarterbacks eight times and picked off two passes, limiting the Falcons to a pair of first half field goals and a fourth-quarter TD.
Coast Guard, which won the FFC title in 1996 under coach Bill Schmitz and in 1997 under coach/AD Chuck Mills, and advanced to the NCAA Tournament both seasons, has fallen on hard times the past two years. The Bears dipped to 1-8 last season under coach Bob Estock, and have managed just one win to date this season. The victory is perhaps the most shocking in Division III New England this season, as Coast Guard pulled out a 31-20 victory over Springfield in its FFC opener. The Bears are in the middle of the pack in total defense (360 yds/gm), but rank last in the FFC in total offense, accumulating just 221 yards per game.
Saturday's game will be the ninth meeting between the two schools, with Plymouth State winning five of the first eight. Coast Guard won the series opener in1988 with a 28-19 triumph in the ECAC North Championship, with the last seven contests coming since the two schools joined the FFC. Two years ago at Currier Field, it was an FFC showdown as both teams came into the game with unbeaten conference records, and Coast Guard prevailed 19-0 en route to the FFC title. The Panthers captured last year's contest in New London, Conn., 29-10.
FFC PICTURE: Western Connecticut has continued its terrific season, and can clinch the FFC title and the first automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament Saturday with a win at WPI. The Colonials remain undefeated (7-0, 3-0), while a WPI loss would give every other conference team at least two FFC defeats. WCSU appears on track to become the fifth school to win or share the FFC title since the conference was formed in 1992, joining WPI (1992, 1993), Plymouth State (1994, 1995), Kings Point (1994), Springfield (1996, 1998) and Coast Guard (1996, 1997).
WEEKLY HONORS: Plymouth State's win at Bentley College last Saturday was highlighted by some strong individual performances, and the Panthers were on the receiving end of several weekly honors. Freshman defensive tackle Nate Laita (Dover-Foxcroft, Maine) was selected FFC and ECAC New England Rookie of the Week, safety Jason Marcell (Stoughton, Mass.) was named FFC Defensive Player of the Week, and running back Russ Massahos (Windham, NH) was an FFC Honor Roll pick for the third time this season. Laita is the fourth Panther to earn Rookie of the Week honors this season, joining QB Justin Conners (Andover, Mass.), K Jesse Elderkin (Concord, NH) and QB Matt Simpson (Auburn, Maine).
ECAC NEW ENGLAND POLL: Plymouth State received votes in this week's ECAC New England Poll, but did not get back into the top 10 after last Saturday's win over Bentley. Undefeated teams Bridgewater State (7-0), WCSU (7-0), Williams (5-0) and Mass. Maritime (7-0) remain in the top four spots, followed by Salve Regina (5-2), Trinity (4-1), WPI (4-2), Tufts (3-2), Springfield (3-4), and Fitchburg State (5-2). Amherst, PSC and Wesleyan also received votes.
PSC AT CURRIER FIELD: Plymouth State has had outstanding success over the years at Currier Field. PSC has an all-time home record of 109-34-3 for a .757 winning percentage. The Panthers are 24-7 at home the last five years, and 36-13-1 in the ‘90s.
A LOOK AHEAD: The Panthers wrap up the regular season with a pair of road games - a non-conference affair next Saturday at Kean (NJ) and the finale in two weeks at WPI.
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