GAME #4: Plymouth State College (2-1, 1-0 FFC) at Western Connecticut State University (4-0, 0-0)
Sat., Sept. 30, 2000, 1:00 p.m., Midtown Campus Field, Danbury, Conn.
PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The defending Freedom Football Conference champion and pre-season favorite Colonials of Western Connecticut State University will defend their turf this Saturday when Plymouth State College arrives in Danbury, Conn., for a key early-season FFC affair.
The Panthers and Colonials will kick off at 1 p.m. at Midtown Campus Field at WCSU, the FFC opener for Western Conn. PSC started its conference slate last weekend with a 14-9 victory at home over Norwich University, improving to 2-1 overall under second-year head coach Chris Rorke. The Panthers are beginning a string of three tough FFC road games in a row against WCSU, Kings Point and Springfield.
Plymouth State, which has moved up to fifth in the ECAC New England Division III poll, will be facing what appears to be a juggernaut at Western Connecticut, the No. 1 team in the poll. The Colonials, led by first-year coach Bob Surace, are 4-0 and have outscored their opponents by a whopping 168-32 margin. Western went 10-0 during the regular season in 1999, and received a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
One of Western's 10 wins last season was a dramatic 12-9 triumph over PSC at Currier Field. The Colonials kicked the winning field goal as time expired, breaking a string of 16 straight losses to PSC and earning just the second career victory over Plymouth State in 23 tries.
The Panther offense is led by the rushing of junior Russ Massahos (Windham, NH) and the passing of sophomore Matt Simpson (Auburn, Maine). Massahos is ranked fourth in the FFC in both rushing (88.3 yds/gm) and all-purpose yards (119.3 yds/gm), while Simpson tops the conference in total offense (170.3 yds/gm). The defense has been spearheaded by junior Mike Pelletier (Concord, NH), who is second in the conference in both tackles (12.0/gm) and interceptions (0.7/gm) and who twice already this season has been selected FFC Defensive Player of the Week.
PANTHER RECEIVING CORPS: Former Panther receiver Charlie Schubert, now an assistant coach, caught a school-record 54 passes in 1999, 37 more than any teammate. His record is not likely to be broken this season, as QB Matt Simpson has been spreading the ball around, finding nine different receivers. In fact, the top five receivers on the team are all within two catches of each other. Junior WR Shaun Spaulding (Everett, Mass.) leads the way with nine catches for 135 yards, ranking fourth in the league in receiving yards and sixth in receptions. Senior WR Andy Gale (Boxford, Mass.) has eight catches (10th in the FFC) for 64 yards, and senior WR Bydrow Williams (Ledyard, Conn.), junior TE John Walters (Wells, Maine) and RB Russ Massahos all have seven receptions.
GREEN WALL DEFENSE: While DB Mike Pelletier has been grabbing the headlines for the PSC defense (36 tackles, 2 INT), he hasn't been doing it alone. Junior LB Chris Kelliher (Goffstown, NH) is right behind with 32 tackles, including three for lost yardage. Senior DB Jason Marcell (Stoughton, Mass.) and LBs Shawn Boyle (Bedford, NH) and Brian Chaplain (Hooksett, NH) are all strong defenders, and junior DT Mike Donahue (Bedford, NH) and senior DE Clint Medas (Taunton, Mass.) are solid anchors along the defensive line.
NEW ENGLAND POLL: The Freedom Football Conference holds down three of the top five spots in this week's ECAC New England Division III poll. Western Connecticut received 12 of the 14 first-place votes and owns the No. 1 spot, while Springfield got the other top votes and is ranked second. Salve Regina and Nichols of the New England Football Conference are in the 3-4 spots, followed by PSC, Amherst, Mass. Maritime, Bridgewater State, Colby and Trinity. Also receiving votes were Norwich, Middlebury, Curry, Wesleyan and UMass Dartmouth.
FFC PRE-SEASON POLL: Western Conn., the defending conference champion, was picked to repeat its title in the annual FFC pre-season coaches poll, receiving four of seven first-place votes. Springfield got the other three top votes and was picked second, followed by PSC in third, Kings Point in fourth, WPI and Norwich tied for fifth, and Coast Guard in seventh.
A LOOK AHEAD: Plymouth State continues with its string of FFC road games next Saturday (Oct. 7th) with a 2 p.m. clash at the Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y. Then after a road game at Springfield College on Oct. 14th, PSC returns home on Saturday, Oct. 21st, to host Bentley College (12 noon, WMUR-TV).