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Panthers look to rebound at Kings Point

GAME #5: Plymouth State College (2-2, 1-1 FFC) at U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (1-4, 1-2 FFC)

Sat., Oct. 7, 2000, 2:00 p.m., Captain Tomb Field, Kings Point, N.Y.

PLYMOUTH, N.H. - Plymouth State College will look to get back on the winning track this Saturday in a Freedom Football Conference road game at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y.

The Panthers and Mariners will kick off at 2 p.m. at Captain Tomb Field, the late start to accommodate Kings Point Homecoming festivities. Plymouth State is looking to rebound after a demoralizing loss at Western Connecticut last Saturday, while Kings Point, which opened the season with four straight losses, is seeking its second consecutive victory.

Plymouth State will have to overcome the home-field advantage that has characterized the series between these two schools, which dates back to an NCAA Tournament game in 1994. The home team has won all five encounters, including a 28-13 Mariner victory in New York in 1998 and last year's 49-27 Panther triumph at Currier Field. PSC holds a 3-2 lead in the career series, but is 0-2 at Kings Point.

Led by second-year head coach Chris Rorke, PSC is hoping for a win to help erase the memory of last Saturday's game at Western Conn., a record-setting 56-7 loss. The Panthers, 2-2 overall and 1-1 in the FFC, have been hurt by injuries and inexperience on the offensive line, and the potent Western Connecticut squad dominated PSC for its 17th straight regular season victory.

Kings Point, led by 10th-year head coach Charlie Pravata, struggled to an 0-4 start this fall with losses to Muhlenberg, Norwich, Springfield and Johns Hopkins. The Mariners rebounded last Saturday, on the road for the fourth time in five weeks, with a 42-27 victory at WPI, improving to 2-4 overall and 1-2 in the FFC.

One of the biggest FFC games of the season is this Friday night when Springfield hosts Western Connecticut in a battle of the top two teams in the conference and in New England. It's still early, but the winner will be in the driver's seat for a possible FFC title and NCAA Tournament berth.

PSC VS. NY: Plymouth State has played 12 different schools from the Empire State, and has posted a combined record of 13-16, including 3-2 vs. Kings Point. PSC's record vs. the others: Albany State (0-1); Alfred (0-1); Brockport State (1-3); Buffalo State (0-1); Cortland State (0-1); Hobart (0-1); Ithaca (1-1); Plattsburgh State (3-1); Rensselaer (1-1); Stony Brook (4-0); and Union (0-3).

PANTHER RECEIVING CORPS: The Panthers use a balanced receiving attack, with the top six players having between six and 11 catches. Junior WR Shaun Spaulding (Everett, Mass.) leads the way with 11 catches for 185 yards, ranking fifth in the league in receiving yards and eighth in receptions. Senior WR Bydrow Williams (Ledyard, Conn.) has caught 10 passes for 143 yards, which puts him eighth in the FFC in receiving yards and 10th in receptions. Others in the PSC receiving picture include RB Russ Massahos (Windham, NH) with nine receptions for 78 yards, TE John Walters (Wells, Maine) with eight catches for 98 yards, WR Andy Gale (Boxford, Mass.) with eight catches for 64 yards, and WR Phil Pagan (Nashua, NH) with six receptions for 79 yards.

GREEN WALL DEFENSE: The PSC defense was busy against Western Connecticut, with junior LBs Brian Chaplain (Hooksett, NH/Trinity) and Chris Kelliher (Goffstown, NH/Trinity) making 10 and eight tackles respectively. Kelliher, who also forced one fumble, recovered another and registered a QB sack, is second in the FFC in tackles (10.0 per game). Kelliher and Chaplain are 7th and 10th in the conference in tackles for loss. Other key members of the Green Wall defense include DBs Mike Pelletier (Concord, NH), Jason Marcell (Stoughton, Mass.), and Bob Maylone (Manchester, NH/Central) and linemen Mike Donahue (Bedford, NH/West), Clint Medas (Taunton, Mass.) and Seth Howard (Manchester, NH/Memorial).

NEW ENGLAND POLL: Western Connecticut (5-0) and Springfield (4-0) continue to hold down the top two spots in the ECAC New England Division III poll. Unbeaten teams Nichols (4-0), Amherst (2-0) and Colby (2-0) occupy the next three slots, followed by Bridgewater State (3-1), Norwich (4-1), Worcester State (3-1), Salve Regina (3-1), and Wesleyan (2-0). Three schools were in the also receiving votes category: UMass Dartmouth, Plymouth State and Williams.

FFC PRE-SEASON POLL: This week's game matches the teams that were picked third (PSC) and fourth (Kings Point) in the FFC pre-season coaches poll. Western Conn., the defending conference champion, was picked to repeat its title, 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: PSC plays its third consecutive FFC road game next Saturday (Oct. 14th) in a 1:30 p.m. clash at Springfield College. Then the Panthers finally return to Currier Field on Saturday, Oct. 21st, to host Bentley College (12 noon, WMUR-TV).