FIRST IN THE NATION
Thursday's game between Anna Maria and Coast Guard is one of just five NCAA Division III games being played on Thursday, September 1st, and the only one in New England.
Coast Guard took a 34-6 victory last season in the first-ever meeting between the two institutions.
In last season's game, Coast Guard's Mike Clancy carried 14 times for 106 yards and two third quarter touchdowns, to aid his team to victory.
Anna Maria's six points came on the foot of then-freshman kicker Francis Cole, who opened his collegiate career with a 22-yard field goal in the second quarter and a 39-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
SCOUTING THE AMCATS
The AMCATS offense returns starting quarterback, Malik Faison, who has had a decorated career at Anna Maria and officially took over as starting quarterback last season. He compiled 1,022 passing yards and threw for seven touchdowns The AMCATS also return Faison's favorite target, junior wide receiver Trai Weaver, who led all receivers in receptions (24), yards (536), and touchdown (five) last year.
Senior running back St. Clair Ryan will look to fill the shoes left vacant by Chris Bettano, who graduated as the program's second-best all-time running back. Bettano accounted for over 37 percent of all of Anna Maria's rushing yards as a senior. Anna Maria will also see five underclassmen and three rookies compete for time at running back.
Defensively, the AMCATS must replace five of their top six performers from a year ago. Senior linebacker Stefano Marziale is the defense's top returner after he totaled 43 tackles and six tackles-for-loss as at linebacker. Junior Tyler Jacobs also returns after compiling 32 tackles, one sack, four tackles-for-loss and two pass breakups as a sophomore linebacker.
Marziale also provides senior leadership to the AMCATS special teams. A two-time all-conference punter, Marziale led the league in punting yards in 2015. Aiding him on special teams is sophomore kicker Francis Cole, who added a much-needed kicking game to Anna Maria's offense last season.
The AMCATS also return 38 other veterans this season while welcoming a freshman class of 34 student-athletes.
SCOUTING THE BEARS
Coast Guard will be led by record setting senior quarterback co-captain Derek Victory, who led the Bears to a 4-2 start as the team won three straight games for the first time in eight years last season, before an injury cost him the rest of the season and the Bears finished 5-5 overall and 4-3 in the New England Football Conference.
Victory is one of five starters back on offense, three of those are offensive linemen in junior right tackle Cory Tomasetti along with senior center J.D. Dunaway and senior left tackle Jordan Hart.
Senior wide receiver Kyle Jackson, who had 25 receptions for 255 yards and three touchdowns last season is only other returning starter on offense.
Victory is already Coast Guard's all-time leader with 508 completions, 915 attempts, 4,866 passing yards and 5,067 yards of total offense. He also owns the single-season school record with 220 passes completed and 409 passes attempted in 2014.
Coast Guard will return just four players on defense as the Bears lost plenty of quality veteran players to graduation.
Seniors James Walsh and Brendan McNeil, who each had 35 tackles last season are returning starters and will anchor the defensive line along with classmates Logan Mars (29 tackles) and co-captain Nick Lodovici (35 tackles). Junior Jacob Brown (50 tackles) is the only returning linebacker while junior cornerback Will Daniels (38 tackles, 1 INT) is the only returning player in the Bears secondary.
Sophomore Cole Austin will take over the place kicking and punting duties replacing All-American punter Tyler Henning, who also tied the Academy record with 28 field goals in his career.
Anna Maria will not play at home again until October 8th when they host SUNY Maritime at 1:00 p.m. They will hit the road for a three-game road streak beginning next Friday, September 9th, for a 7:00 p.m. game at Nichols.
They will then play at Curry on Saturday, September 17th and will open ECFC action on October 1st at Castleton.