September 7, 2010

All set to ship out

More news about: SUNY-Maritime
Clayton Kendrick-Holmes
Clayton Kendrick-Holmes has a much more important job to do after this season ends.
SUNY-Maritime athletics photo

Clayton Kendrick-Holmes was a restricted earnings coach at The Citadel on Sept. 11, 2001, giving a chalk talk on blitzes when his presentation was interrupted to give him the news about the attack on the Twin Towers.

The event would alter his life, but he could not have known just how.

Just weeks before football camp was to open for this season, Kendrick-Holmes received a phone call from a government official telling him to prepare for mobilization. The next day he found out it would be to Afghanistan after the season.

The SUNY-Maritime head coach was pulling the strings on the sideline Thursday night as the Privateers opened with a thrilling 15-12 victory over Massachusetts Maritime in the Chowder Bowl. It took a touchdown run by freshman Thomas Davis to with 4:21 remaining to pull it out.

But even in a close game, Kendrick-Holmes's thoughts can never be far away from the approaching deployment. His focus is much different this fall. He will be leaving a wife and sons ages 9 and 12.

And he knows he must think about a worst case scenario.

"I've got to prepare for the possibility for not coming back," he said. "It's a war. There are people over there who hate us and our way of life."

He spends more time at home and less at the office these days. He feels fortunate to have a supportive and loyal staff, capable of carrying out assignments.

"I wouldn't classify myself as a grinder, but I do come home earlier now instead of sitting around the office. The staff has been incredibly understanding and they have all stepped up," he said.

When he got the call, half his team was out on the ship. He wanted the players to hear the news from him and not somewhere else.

"We kept it kind of hush-hush until camp," he said.

Kendrick-Holmes knew a deployment was pretty much now or never. His commitment to the Navy Reserve is up in 2012.

He grew up in the football country of Lafayette, Ala.

"Football is a way of life down there," he said.

That makes his gravitation to football easy to explain. His affiliation to the military less so. When his older brother went to Vanderbilt on an ROTC scholarship, Clayton told him that there must be easier ways to pay for college.

Then, he was recruited by the U.S. Naval Academy. When a letter arrived one day, he told his father that was a place he wouldn't go. His father told him to keep his options open.

He did and that was the option he chose. He became a two-time letter winner for the Midshipmen and earned a degree in Oceanography.

When he began coaching at the Naval Academy Prep School, he knew coaching was what he really wanted to do.

Coaching in Thursday night's home game, Kendrick-Holmes looked up and saw the New York City skyline in all its beauty and the blimp hovering over the U.S. Open.

New York Maritime is a special place with a unique feel. The school has a plan in place for the man to return to the program he started from scratch in 2005.

Clayton-Holmes was instrumental not only in the start of football at the school, but also in the formation of the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference which is in its second year.

"If anything the timing is good," he said. "Three years ago it would have been devastating. Now, the program is pretty established."

He wants to keep in touch with his staff and kept abreast of what is happening in the program during his deployment, if possible.

"I don't know how much time I'll have," he said.

He has told the players that he doesn't want the season to be about him.

That might be his script, but just as in a football game, the script often gets altered. He knew it might be difficult to not make the season at least somewhat about him when he heard a player in the fourth quarter, say, "Let's win it for coach."

This week there is a short trip to Danbury, Conn., to play Western Connecticut. The season does go on. But it's hardly business as usual at New York Maritime.

Fledgling Spartans scare Panthers
"Everyone got their money's worth," Plymouth State coach Paul Castonia said as he came off the field.

All 3,712 fans got that. Castonia's Panthers needed a 25-yard field goal from Christian Mucahy with 6:25 left to take the lead and hold on for a 16-14 victory over Castleton State College, a second-year program from the ECFC.

"This left a sour taste in our mouth,' said Plymouth offensive lineman Xandcer Fucillo.

Castleton coach Rich Alercio told his Spartans after the game that the goals were now readjusted. His team had grown and it was no longer about trying to compete, but about winning games.

Plymouth quarterback J.J. Brooks rushed for 75 yards and threw for 95 more. Castleton quarterback Shane Brozowski completed 20 of 34 passes, one for a score.

Battle of running backs
Bridgewater State opened with a 34-25 win over Mount Ida in the ballyhooed "Battle of Running Backs." Bridgewater's Justin Fuller and Ida's Johrone Bunch were among the top backs in the country last season and earned plenty of preseason recognition. Fuller rushed for 117 yards and three touchdowns and also caught a TD pass. Bunch had 77 yards on 18 carries.

But just as big a story was Bridgewater freshman quarterback Mike McCarthy. He rambled for 143 yards and a touchdown and also threw a touchdown pass.

This time the ball's not round
Former major league pitcher Chad Bentz got into the game as a fullback for Castleton State. Like former major league pitcher Jim Abbott, the 30-year-old Bentz has one hand.

Fantastic finishes
Gallaudet lost 35-34 when the United States Merchant Marine Academy scored with one second left. Gallaudet quarterback Jimmy Gardner scored with 1:10 left to give the Bison the lead.

Endicott beat Framingham State 33-27 in three overtimes. Quarterback Phil Konopka threw for two touchdowns and also went over on a sneak for the winning score in the third overtime.

Not to be lost in all this was the big day by Framingham State quarterback Kurt Leon who threw for 309 yards and two TDs.

A win so sweet
The UMass-Dartmouth Corsairs got that elusive win and did it ever taste sweet, ending a 12-game losing streak. They beat Fitchburg State 37-15 as Jaron Hargrove and Patrick Orlando had big days rushing the football and Orando also threw for 252 yards and another score.

The Corsairs put it away early, leading 30-0 at haftime.

After a winless season, football fever might break out around the UMass-Dartmouth campus. One guy who is sure to catch it is Evan Bernecke. The UMass-Dartmouth receiver caught plenty of big balls in this one. His five catches totaled 166 yards and one was a touchdown. If that was not enough, Bernecke also threw for a score. Tyler Dow passed for 203 yards.

Defense is special
Bob Chesney had to really appreciate his head coaching debut at Salve Regina. Chesney worked with defense and special teams at Johns Hopkins and his Seahawks won this one with defense and special teams. Brendan Deasy kicked a 22-yard field goal for the difference as Salve defeated WPI 6-3.

Nine in a row, look at 'em go
Norwich ended Western New England's five-game winning streak and extended its own to nine games with an impressive 35-7 victory as quarterback Kris Sabourin collected 273 yards of total offense and threw for three scores.

The big games
Norwich was 8-0 in the first-year ECFC last year but 0-3 out of the league. They feel they have something to prove and they took a big step toward doing it by beating a nonconference foe in the opener. Now, they play another on Saturday when they travel to St. Lawrence.

Should Plymouth fans be worried or did Castleton get that good in its second season? More answers to that question this week. Castleton hosts an excellent Utica team that crushed them 62-7 last year. Plymouth plays its home opener against Mount Ida.

And we know UMass-Dartmouth is better. How much better? A pretty good answer comes this week at 1-0 Bridgewater State.

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Tom Haley

A seven time Vermont sportswriter of the year, Tom Haley has been with the Rutland Herald since 1987. He was inducted into the Castleton State College Hall of Fame in 2004 and received the Contributor to Football Award from the National Football Foundation's Vermont Chapter.

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