• Graham Knight

Coast Guard Suffers Loss at Curry, Coach Grant Shares Thoughts . . .

by Graham Knight

For the Coast Guard Bears, it was a tough game two. Four interceptions thrown by Tafari Wall led to a 21-18 loss to Curry College. The Bears actually lead at halftime on the strength of an early field goal by Finnegan Hall and a 41-yard touchdown from Wall to Demaso Jaime to make it 10-7.

But three interceptions in the fourth quarter sealed the Bears' fate, including a pick-six by Curry's Cameron Cruz to put the Colonels up 21-14. The Bears added a late touchdown on a pass from Wall to Jared Colletti but it was too little, too late.

Still the Bears defense held fast, giving up just two touchdowns on the day to follow on their opening day shutout.

Here's the conversation we had with Coast Guard Head Coach C.C. Grant after the game:

Graham Knight: Coach, second game of the season, let's just cut right to the chase. How do you sum it all up?

Coach C.C Grant: We have a long way to go. Again, we did some things very well. Obviously, we didn't execute as well as we we would have liked, but I think the defense played pretty well, kept us in the game. And even at the end of both halves there were still plays to be made that we left on the field. So it's a work in progress.

Sometimes you have to remind yourself that these kids aren't already there yet. And we're kind of in a stage where we're developing them as we play these games.

Graham: Let's talk defensive side of the ball, you had some great moments from the defense. They held at the five yard line, kept them out of the end zone a couple of times. Talk to me from the defensive side of the ball, seemed really strong. What are you proudest of there and what are you working on?

Coach Grant: We got a bunch of tough guys. Outsized in a lot of cases, but two guys that stick out in mind are two of my linebackers. Mike Palermo and Connor Healy are playing tremendous right now. They're the ones responsible for getting us lined up, they're in the middle. Everything kind of runs through them and they're doing great.

Connor was an outside linebacker for us, and I told him he's going to move inside. I saw one day where he could run, he was pretty fast to the ball so we moved him. And they've done a great job of being leaders on and off the field.

I think the way our defensive backs have been playing, especially the two corners, has been great. We haven't given up, knock on wood, any long balls this year yet. So if I look at those four guys, they are kind of probably the center of it all. But overall, I like the way that we compete.

Like I said, we're going to be outsized pretty much every week, but if we can get just a little bit better technically and not make some of the mental and physical mistakes. Although I look at it and I say, "Hey, we played a pretty good game defensively," there were a couple of times when, if on fourth down we could have gotten a stop, maybe they don't score. We missed a tackle, we missed an assignment here or there. And although you look and say defensively 13 points, those are huge plays that may not show up in the stats. But when you sit down, break down film on Sunday, they show up with us. And those are things that we have to clean up.

Graham: Yeah, a game of inches. Let's talk on the offensive side of the ball: Tafari Wall, great arm, had some really great moments, maybe some not so much. When I look at the split, seventy five percent from the air, twenty-five percent from the ground. I talk to me a little bit about your approach to offense and talk to me a little bit about Tafari.

Coach Grant: I think if it were up to me we probably would be a little bit more balanced than we were in the first game. I think [running back] Jared Colletti carried the ball for almost 20 times and he had almost 80 yards. But I also look at the end of the game, when we're behind -- that last quarter and a half -- we probably threw the ball a little bit more than we wanted to. We had a successful ground game going on Saturday and, maybe, we could have run a little bit more. And for a defensive unit, you love it when your offense can run the ball, gives you a little bit of rest time.

Part of it was out of need. Tafari is, like I said, still in the development stage right now. He's not already there. And you kind of have to remind the offensive coaches that, hey, you got a guy that you're developing. But he's not a kid that can lean on experience, because he doesn't have any except the first two games.

So, you would like to take a couple of those turnovers back, especially, obviously, the pick six and the one at the end of the the first half where you're right on the edge of being in field goal range.

To the kid's credit, he came over to me after the game and said, "Hey, this one's on me." And I said, "No, we lost as a team and that's the way it's always going to be." But to his credit I think he's, in his own mind, taking the blame for the loss although we would never do that to him. So that in a lot of ways shows me the maturity he's already has.

Graham: Well, he's got a great arm, he has thrown some beautiful passes. There was one other thing I want to ask you about. Time of possession seemed to not go in your favor, the colonel's held on to the ball. How much of an impact did that have on your game?

Coach Grant: I think it does. Any time you can possess the ball for a longer period of time than your opponent that normally plays on the positive side. And I think part of that were the four turnovers that we had. That has a large part to do with it. And the other part of it is, if you don't get off the field on third and longs . . . although I thought third downs, I think they were like four out of 16 or something like that, something very low. But even on the fourth downs, they were like 80 percent on fourth downs. That's going to be a long drive. So when you put all that stuff together it goes in their favor.

GK: I still do have to say, even with four turnovers, to end 21-18, that makes quite a statement. I know that win/loss, it's black and white, but at the same time 21-18 with four turnovers -- that was competitive!

Coach Grant: Yeah. I have to say, even late in the game, I'm like, "We got a chance to pull this out." We went down the field, we scored a touchdown, we went for two, we got that. Now we're down three. And I'm talking to the guys -- because we still have all three timeouts left -- whether to onside it or whatnot. But, in retrospect, because they had a personal foul, an sportsmanlike conduct, I was thinking: maybe I should have kicked it deep. We go three and out, and they threw on third down to save us a timeout, the pass was incomplete, that maybe we get the ball back now -- instead of getting it back deep our own area -- we've get the ball back maybe on the forty-five or even at midfield. You know, hindsight's twenty-twenty.

We did play hard. That's the one thing I would say about these kids. They played right to the last play and that's that's one good thing I could say about this game.

Graham: I want to look ahead to next week. Coach, I got your number and I hear that your number is 672, six hundred seventy-two. Six hundred and seventy-two days since the Coast Guard Bears last played at home. It was the Merchant Marine game back in 2019. What's it going to be like to be back on your home field after all that time?

Coach Grant: It's going to feel great! And I think for these kids that the adrenaline is going to be working. We have two homecomings this year, and it's going to be the first one, so the stands are going to be full. It's going to be good to get a little home cooking. Just for them to be able to play on a field where they practice every day, sleep in their own beds and not have to get up and get on a bus, it's going to feel nice. To play a home game after almost two and a half some odd years, whatever it might be at this point time, it's going to feel real good.

Graham: And tell me a little bit about your opponent before we bid you farewell, because we are going to be there at the game on Saturday to cover it -- we're looking forward to that, looking forward to seeing you in person -- but tell me a little bit about the match-up.

Coach Grant: Nichols is a good team. They are probably the most complete team out of first three that we played. The quarterback can make every single throw. They have a dynamic, the best running back that will face up to this point in the season. They're big up front. I watched some of the defensive tape and they got good skilled kids all over the field. So it's going to be a challenge. As much as the first two games were, I think this would even be a bigger challenge for us.

Graham: All right, Coach, I appreciate your time. Looking forward to seeing you on Saturday. Best of luck and we'll talk to you next time.

Coach Grant: All right, Graham, I appreciate you having me.

edited for web by Joe Harman