NEW LONDON, Conn. - In a game featuring two blocked kicks, a safety, and a 200-yard rushing performance, Plymouth State College stopped a three-game losing streak Saturday with a 29-10 Freedom Football victory over the Coast Guard Academy.
Redshirt freshman Russ Massahos (Windham, NH) carried 32 times for 207 yards and two touchdowns, his second straight 100-yard rushing performance. His first TD was a 74-yard burst on PSC's second play from scrimmage, and then he put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter with a one yard plunge.
The win improved PSC's record to 5-3 overall (3-2 in the FFC) and kept Plymouth State's ECAC playoff hopes alive. Coast Guard, the two-time defending FFC champions, dropped its fifth straight game to dip to 1-6 overall and 0-4 in the conference.
"This is a huge win for the program," said PSC head coach Mike Kemp. "It's tough to go on the road after three straight losses. The team tried to look at positives during the week, like the second half of the Bentley game last week. We really worked hard to prepare for this game."
Senior Colt Meredith (Saugus, MA) led a strong effort by PSC's defense and special teams. With the Panthers holding a 16-10 lead early in the fourth quarter, Meredith blocked a Coast Guard punt, then picked up the loose ball and raced 26 yards into the end zone for a touchdown and a 22-10 Panther lead.
"We worked all week on that play," said Meredith. " I attacked a seam, which was an area we knew we could exploit, and I found I was wide open at the punter. The ball came right back to my hands on the bounce (after the block). It's good to get the feeling back after three losses."
Meredith's blocked punt was the second for the Panthers on the day. When Coast Guard's opening drive of the game stalled, PSC's John McLaughlin (East Bridgewater, MA) blocked the Bears' punt. Coast Guard got the ball back, though, when PSC's Dan Demuth (LeMars, Iowa) fumbled after recovering the blocked punt.
Coast Guard, which hadn't scored in the opening quarter all season, took a 10-7 lead after 15 minutes on a two-yard run by Brian Smicklas and a 28-yard field goal by Byron Hayes. In fact, the Bears gained 127 yards in the opening quarter, but managed only 47 yards the rest of the game against a fired-up PSC defense.
PSC regained the lead (14-10) just before halftime on a two-yard TD by Bryan Sinatro (W. Hartford, CT).
"Our kids were frustrated, up only 14-10 at the half," said Kemp, "but I said ‘hey look, at least we're winning.' That seemed to get us back in focus. We knew we were bigger, stronger and faster that they were. I thought we might wear them down in the second half, and we did."
The lead was extended to 16-10 midway through the third quarter on a safety when Coast Guard was called for holding in its own end zone. The Panthers clinched the game in the fourth quarter on Meredith's TD off the punt and Massahos' second TD.
"I was a lot more comfortable today," said Massahos, who started for only the second time this season. "I'm getting more chances to run, and as long as it helps the team win, that's all I care about."
The Panthers return home to Currier Field for its final two regular season games - a non-conference clash next Saturday (Nov. 7) against Kean University of New Jersey (12:00 p.m., WMUR-TV), and Nov. 14 against conference foe WPI (1:00 p.m.).
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