PSU Athletics Top Ten Moments of 2017-18

PSU Athletics Top Ten Moments of 2017-18

No. 7 – Football shocks Framingham State on the way to MASCAC crown

            PLYMOUTH, N.H. – As Panther Nation gears up for the start of the 2018-19 season, we've decided to look back at the impressive 2017-18 year in Plymouth State Athletics. Over the next few weeks we will reflect on some of the most exciting performances of last season while counting down the Top Ten Moments of 2017-18.

 

            No. 7: Football shocks Framingham State on the way to MASCAC crown 

            Recent history suggested the mid-October football game between Plymouth State and Framingham State would likely be a one-sided contest. The Panthers were just three years removed from a 1-9 mark, while Framingham had won six-of-seven Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) titles. In the four previous head-to-head match-ups the Rams had outscored PSU by a 154-19 margin. On paper it might have appeared to be David vs. Goliath.

            Knowledgeable members of Panther Nation, however, were quick to point out the Panthers were trending in the right direction. PSU had experienced a five-game improvement from 2014 to 2016 and 2017 was off to a great start. The team was sporting a 5-1 record while the defense had surrendered seven points or less in each win.

            Framingham had opened the season in typical fashion rolling over the competition for a 5-0 start. The Rams offense had averaged over 34 points per game leaving some to wonder how the PSU defense would be able to match-up with the high-flying Framingham offense. As it would turn out, the answer was "just fine."

            Graduate student Zach Ziemba (Manchester, N.H.), in a sign of things to come, set an early tone for the Panthers when he forced and recovered a fumble on Framingham's first offensive play.

            PSU controlled the early field position game, pinning the Rams inside their own 10-yard line in each of the next two possessions. Framingham's third possession ended when senior defensive lineman Joe Esposito (Hackettstown, N.J.) recorded a strip sack that classmate Jack Howarth (Portsmouth, N.H.) recovered to give the Panthers great field position at the FSU 25-yard line.

            The home team needed just one play to cash in. Junior quarterback Zack Edwards (Brookfield, Mass.) connected with senior Chris Kelly (Belmont, Mass.) down the middle for a 25-yard touchdown strike and although the point after was no good, the Panthers were brimming with confidence after the 6-0 lead.

            Framingham's offense was able to move the ball on its next possession, but the drive stalled and the Rams were forced to settle for a 40-yard field goal try. Ziemba made his second huge play of the afternoon, coming around the left side to block the kick and keep Framingham off the scoreboard.

            The Panther defense came up huge again on the next FSU possession. The Rams chewed up chunks of yardage, efficiently driving to the Plymouth 2-yard line. Facing a fourth-and-goal, quarterback Zak Walker (Ayer, Mass.) was forced out of the pocket and Esposito's pursuit led to an incomplete pass as the Rams turned the ball over on downs. The vaunted Framingham offense had not intimidated the Panthers and the home team went into halftime holding a 6-0 lead. It was the first time in seven games, dating back to Nov. 5, 2016, that the Rams had been held off the scoreboard in the first half of a contest.

            Framingham found the end zone early in the third quarter when Walker hooked up with senior Khaneil Bruce (Cambridge, Mass.) on a play-action pass for a 1-yard score. The extra point put the visitors in front, 7-6, but Plymouth wasted little time in responding.

            Edwards found Kelly on the ensuing drive, this time in the front corner of the end zone, to put PSU right back in front. Freshman Jeremy Martin (Charlton, Mass.) drilled the high-pressure point after and the green-and-white was back in front, 13-7. A 38-yard kickoff return by junior Brad Rhoades (Epsom, N.H.) jumpstarted the drive and a 31-yard gain on a fourth-and-1 screen pass to senior Andy Reardon (Rockland, Mass.) set up the score.

            The Rams tied the game at 13-13 following a lengthy drive late in the fourth quarter. FSU converted three fourth downs as part of the 15-play, 60-yard drive, capped by a 2-yard touchdown run, but once again the Panthers' special teams came up huge as a big push by the defensive line allowed the PAT to be blocked.

            Neither team would score in the remaining six minutes of regulation, setting up Plymouth's first overtime contest of the year. The Rams went on offense first and quickly picked up six yards. Faced with a third-and-4, Walker found junior Deron Hines (Chelsea, Mass.) in the backfield, but junior Grant McGregor (Burlington, Conn.) made a key tackle to leave FSU with a 40-yard field goal try. This time it was senior Blair Zentek (Simsbury, Conn.) playing the role of hero as he sprinted untouched around the right side to block the kick.

            Junior Mitch Banuskevich (Milford, N.H.) found an opening and scampered for a 14 yard gain on PSU's first play of overtime. He carried the ball three more times to set up a fourth-and-3 from the 4-yard line and Martin was called upon for the biggest kick of his career. The snap was high, but Zentek got it down and Martin split the uprights as the Panthers rushed the field.

            Plymouth's message to the league was loud and clear – the Panthers were back. PSU would close out the regular season with three more wins en route to a 9-1 record, the first MASCAC title in program history and a fifth NCAA Tournament appearance.

 

            PSU Athletics Top Ten Moments of 2017-18

            No. 6 – Coming Aug. 10

            No. 7 – Football shocks Framingham State on the way to MASCAC crown

            No. 8 – Men's basketball rallies from 12 down to top Keene State in OT

            No. 9 – Miller's no-hitter leads softball team to LEC Tournament win

            No. 10 – Panther Park renamed Parish Field

 

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