Springfield, Mass. - October 13, 2018 - The Springfield College football team suffered its first-ever New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) loss on Saturday afternoon after it was downed by Merchant Marine, 17-14, on Stagg Field.
Springfield, which dropped to 5-2, 3-1, had won its first 10 conference games dating back to last season. The win boosts the Mariners to 5-1, 3-1.
In a game that featured two of the top rushing offenses in the country, it was the play of each team's defensive units that was the story. Springfield held Merchant Marine to just 149 rushing yards, nearly 140 below its season average. However, the Mariners limited Springfield to just 4-of-15 on third down conversions as the Pride had 257 yards of offense, including 199 on the ground.
Tim Callahan (Enfield, Conn.) had a team-best 86 yards on the ground, while Hunter Belzo (Middletown, Conn.) had 52 yards on the ground and 58 in the air. Defensively for the Pride, AJ Smith (Rahway, N.J.) made a game-high 13 tackles, Chaz Ruffin (Enfield, Conn.) totaled 11 stops, and Nick Giorgio (Cumberland, R.I.) registered eight tackles, including four tackles-for-loss and a pair of sacks, while also forcing a fumble and recovering a fumble.
Krystian Abbott was effective throwing the football, going 12-for-19 for 172 yards, while also carrying the ball 25 times for 25 yards and a score. Joe Vitelli had a huge game on the outside with eight catches for 128 yards. Jack Wallace had 11 stops for the visitors, while Eric Davidson and Brian Harris each chipped in 10. Gavin Gartner was 3-for-4 on field goal attempts, connecting on tries from 22, 24, and 27 yards.
Merchant Marine took advantage of a Springfield fumble at the 7:46 mark of the first quarter to begin their third possession of the game at the Springfield 46-yard line. Following a 31-yard pass completion to Luke Jamison to get inside the Pride's red zone, Springfield's defense held tough and limited the Mariners to a 27-yard field goal from Gartner with 5:53 on the clock.
Just 1:35 into the second quarter, Springfield struck for the game's first touchdown as Belzo punched in a two-yard score to cap off a nine-play, 34-yard drive. Springfield forced a three-and-out on the ensuing drive, highlighted by a huge sack by Giorgio to regain possession at their own-39 yard line with 11:42 on the clock. A 31-yard pass completion to Jakai Whittingham (Meriden, Conn.) gave the Pride a critical third-down conversion, but three plays later, Springfield was looking at a 4th-and-9 from Merchant Marine's 29 yard line. Ryan Deguire (Schenectady, N.Y.) took a pitch to the right, and used a terrific spin move to break free down the sidelines for a touchdown run with 9:03 on the clock as the Pride opened up a 14-3 lead.
The Mariners marched the ball right back down the field, getting a 54-yard strike to Vitelli to once again get inside the hosts 10-yard line. However, Gartner's 19-yard field goal attempt hit the right goal post to keep the Mariners off the scoreboard. The visitors would get the ball back with just over four minutes in the half and use a 12-play, 43-yard drive to get on the scoreboard, again benefitting from a 24-yard field goal from Gartner with 11 seconds remaining to make it a 14-6 game at the half.
On their second possession of the second half, Merchant Marine went 80 yards in just 3:21, using 10-play drive in which Abbott barreled over the goal line from four yards out to make it a 14-12 game. Abbott then punched in a two-point conversion to even things up at 14-apiece. Despite having the ball for over nine minutes in the quarter, Springfield was unable to muster any points.
Early in the fourth quarter, Garner buried his third field goal of the game, this time from 22 yards out to make it a 17-14 game. Springfield would get great field position at their own 45 after Sam Greenfield (Providence, R.I.) scooped up a fumble that was forced by Giorgio with 10:42 left in regulation. However, after getting the ball to the Merchant Marine 26, a costly false start penalty backed the Pride up, and the hosts would turn the ball over on downs two plays later. The Mariners sealed the game with a methodical, 17-play drive that chewed up over eight minutes off the clock. Springfield would get one final shot, getting the ball back from their own eight yard line with seven seconds left, but the Pride couldn't muster up any final-second heroics as they dropped the conference contest.
The Pride will now regroup for their longest road trip of the season as they head to Washington D.C. to battle Catholic next Saturday for a 1 pm tilt.