NEWPORT, R.I. - Junior fullback Mark DeBiasio (North Attleboro, MA) rushed 29 times for 167 yards and three touchdown's Saturday to lead Salve Regina University to a 36-6 victory over Plymouth State College in the ECAC Division III Northeast Championship Game here at frigid Toppa Field.
The Panthers managed just 79 yards of offense against a strong Seahawk defense, including minus seven in the rushing department. PSC concludes its season at 7-4 overall while Salve wins for the 10th straight Saturday and winds up 10-1 overall.
Plymouth State was making its record 10th ECAC appearance, but fell to 2-8 in those outings.
"Give them credit, they're a very legitimate team," said PSC head coach Mike Kemp. "Preparing for their (wing-T) running game is like preparing for Springfield's option, it's very tough to stop and today they ran it very well. I thought we played better in the second half but offensively we didn't support our defense."
DeBiasio scored first-quarter touchdowns from 13 yards and 18 yards out as Salve took a 13-0 lead before Plymouth State had registered a first down. In fact, the Seahawks outgained PSC in total yards in the first quarter, 98-0, and 327-79 in the contest.
The Panthers got their only score of the game two minutes into the second quarter on a 40-yard punt return by junior Brent Bardellini (Milford, MA). It was the seventh career touchdown off a punt return for Bardellini, who finished the afternoon with 90 yards on three kick returns and 46 yards on two punt returns.
"Brent had a real good day today," said Kemp. "He made some big plays on special teams. They doubled on Joel Carey (South Pomfret, VT) and forced us to go to Brent."
The Panther running game struggled against Salve's defense. Sophomore Jeff Parker (Norwich, NY) managed just 20 yards on seven carries, and freshman Russ Massahos (Windham, NH) rushed for only 16 yards on 18 carries.
Salve increased its lead to 21-6 with six minutes remaining in the first half when sophomore Ross Ruggiero (Walpole, MA) returned a Panther fumble 15 yards for a TD and halfback Luke Arnold (Westerly, RI) added a two-point conversion. Ruggiero led a solid Seahawk defensive effort with nine tackles, including four quarterback sacks.
The Seahawks continued to capitalize on Panther mistakes in the second half. Early in the fourth quarter George Greenman (Newport, RI) returned an interception 14 yards for a score. Salve closed out the scoring with six minutes remaining when DiBiasio added his third touchdown from one yard out.
"I'm real proud of what this team has accomplished," said Kemp. "To get to where we are, we had to overcome inexperience, injuries, a tough schedule and several distractions on our campus. To go 7-4 and compete in an ECAC Championship is a credit to the pride and determination possessed by the players and coaches in our program. I'm very grateful to have been a part of it."
-- 30 --