• Graham Knight

Coast Guard's Coach Is Ready For A Full Season

Here's a riddle for you: What do the banks of the River Thames and a lost season of football have in common? The answer is the Coast Guard Bears in New London ,CT.

2020 brought a great deal of optimism for new Head Coach, C.C. Grant, but the pandemic relegated the Bears to just a single game, the Secretaries' Cup against rival Merchant Marine which was played in November. Coast Guard lost that game 24 - 14. But for the Bears' new Head Coach there was a bright side, at least his seniors had a chance to play one last time.

Coach C.C Grant is a versatile guy, a Defensive Coordinator and a baseball guy before he took the top football job. Behind The Lines host Graham Knight had a chance to talk with him earlier this year to look ahead to this year, but also reflect on what was almost an entirely lost season. Here is their conversation:

Coach C.C. Grant: First and foremost it was a blessing just to play the one game that we did, and get to spend the time that we did with the outgoing class, those 22 kids, just to go in and have at least one game with them.

You kinda take it as it is, there's nothing you could have done about how the situation played out. But I just consider myself lucky to have been able to coach those guys, even if it was just for one game.

Graham: I thought about you a lot last season. How do you prepare for just one game?

Coach Grant: You know, we kinda took it easy. We did have an outbreak here at the Academy so even while we were preparing for that game we missed a whole week of practice. We shut it down, we thought it was going through the team a little bit. We took it kinda slow, it was a slow burn and kinda built up to it.

From a coaching standpoint I thought my coaches did a very good job because we put ourselves in a position to win that game. In the end King's Point just outplayed us, but from a physical standpoint, from a mental standpoint, I thought we did a great job of prep and our kids were ready to play that day.

Graham: Let's talk about players. I understand it's a young team and I understand there might be a lot of question marks. Is there anybody on your roster that we should be watching, or is there anybody you're particularly excited about this year, starters coming back?

Coach Grant: I would say, first and foremost, if you watched that King's Point game, one of the best players on the field that day was Jared Colletti. He was a starting running back that day. I look for big things from him.

We have a new starting quarterback, a kid by the name of Tafari Wall. He's going to get a chance to play. The offense may look a little bit different, especially since we got a 6'3" - 6'4" quarterback who can run a little bit.

Also, Damaso Jaime was one of our top returning receivers. So we've got some weapons on offense, it's just a matter of getting the chance to give them the ball.

Defensively, Mike Palermo is going to be a starter for us at corner. We got a kid, Adam Jibril-Barnes, who we've been looking forward to. We thought last year would be the year that he would have a breakout. He's a kid I recruited out of Texas and, as a senior, he won the 55-hurdels in the State of Texas in the Task Division, so he can run a little bit.

Those two guys will be the anchor point of our defense and those three guys I mentioned on offense, I'm looking for big things from those guys.

Graham: Let's talk about the schedule. Your season opener is Sept. 4 against the New England Nor'Easters. Anything particular about your schedule or any games that really stand out to you?

Coach Grant: Probably the opening game because that will be the first game we've really played in almost two years. But then there are certain games on the schedule that have special meaning, the Norwich game, the King's Point game. Those games are always good.

They're doing something a little different because we missed Homecoming last year. We're actually going to have two Homecomings this year. So it'll be exciting for the players because they're definitely going to have people in the stands in those games.

Normally, the first game of the year then, obviously, the Norwich and King's Point games are the ones that you can probably sit down and say, "All right, those are the games that have special meaning because of the different implications that are involved in them."

And I would expect us, as the season goes on, that, if we stay healthy, we'll be a totally different team by game, 6, 7, 8, 9, just based on our youth. And we've found guys who if we have to move a guy here or there, who has come along, that we will get better as the season goes on.

That to me is a big thing: just keep improving. We'll have a starting point on Sept. 4th and as long as we improve from that point on we'll be fine.

Graham: Coach Grant, I think you've paid your dues and now it's time to play some football!