Experience a plus as USMMA prepares for football opener
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It's no surprise that the United States Merchant Marine Academy would take a disciplined approach to football.
"We have a regimented, no-nonsense type of system," coach Mike Toop said. "I think we have an outstanding senior class this year."
It starts with senior Tyler Washington, a returning all-conference safety and team captain who is expected to lead the defense in Division III Liberty League play.
Washington will run the show alongside senior Matthew Morse, an honorable mention all-conference outside linebacker and defensive end, who is also a team captain.
"We're in a tough league, so we need to talk and be in the right spot," said Washington, who finished with 56 solo tackles in his first-team All-Liberty League 2012 season.
Outside linebacker Michael Biehn is also expected to contribute.
"It's about doing your one of 11," said Morse, who is looking ahead to the Mariners' home opener against Susquehanna at 2:30 p.m. Sept. 7. "You got one job to do each play. Trust your teammates and do your job in order to be successful."
Senior guard Ben Runchey (6-2, 255) leads the way as one of four starters returning on the offensive line, which includes junior guard Jacob Margrey, junior center Anthony Gonzales and senior tackle Joseph Curro.
Junior quarterback Luke Stidham will run the triple option, featuring returning second-team all-conference running back Connor Kennedy, a senior captain, and junior running back Colin Hinchey.
"This is the strongest senior group from a standpoint of their performance in the weight room," Toop said.
The preseason conference favorite is Hobart, which is coming off its best season in school history last year, when it went 10-0 during the regular season en route to its second straight Liberty League championship.
USMMA squares off against the Statesmen in its homecoming game Sept. 28.
The most-anticipated game of the year for the Mariners is always against Coast Guard Academy. USMMA will host its rivals for the coveted Secretaries' Cup on Sept. 14. The Mariners are 7-2 all-time against the Bears with Toop at the helm.
"As a player, I never lost to them," said Toop, who was a linebacker for USMMA ('77 graduate) from 1973-76. "It's always a close game. I'm still a little bitter about those two losses."
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Tyler Washington, S, Sr., 6-0, 190
Matthew Morse, OLB, Sr., 6-2, 225
Jonathan Leone, OL, Sr., 6-0, 255
Michael Biehn, OLB, Sr., 5-10, 190
Luke Stidham, QB, Jr., 6-0, 185
Ricardo Gonzales, DB, Fr., 6-0, 160
Colin Hinchey, RB, Jr., 6-0, 205
Ben Runchey, OL, 6-2, 255, Sr.
Jordan Berges, OL, 6-2, 260, Sr.
Jacob Margrey, OL, 6-1, 250, Jr.
Joseph Curro, OL, 6-2, 235, Sr.
Anthony Gonzales, OL, Jr., 5-9, 250
Connor Kennedy, RB, Sr., 5-10, 160