NEW LONDON, Conn. - Junior halfback Russ Massahos (Windham, NH) continued his assault on the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Saturday, rushing for over 200 yards and leading Plymouth State College to a 25-7 Freedom Football Conference victory over the Bears at blustery Cadet Memorial Field.
The victory stops a four-game losing streak for PSC and improves the Panthers' record to 3-5 overall and 2-3 in the FFC. Coast Guard lost its third straight and drops to 2-6 and 0-4.
Massahos carried 32 times for a career-high 208 yards and one touchdown. His only score was a 78-yard burst early in the fourth quarter that provided the game's final margin of victory. Massahos ran for 207 yards and two touchdowns in his first career game against the Bears in 1998, and set PSC, FFC and New England Division III records last season with six touchdowns and 189 yards rushing.
"This definitely takes the monkey off our back," said Massahos, who has 604 yards rushing and nine touchdowns in three career games against Coast Guard. "Even though we'd lost four in a row, we had to take the bad with the good. We've gotten some of our guys back on the offensive line, and this gives everyone a boost."
Both teams struggled through a sluggish first half, Coast Guard gaining only 123 yards and PSC 97. The only scoring plays were a two-yard run by CGA's Terry Staderman (Cincinnati, Ohio) with 5:05 remaining and a 20-yard pass from PSC sophomore QB Matt Simpson (Auburn, Maine) to senior Bydrow Williams (Ledyard, Conn.) with 1:33 on the clock.
The Panthers took the lead for good on the first possession of the second half, driving 80 yards on 14 plays and culminating in a TD from Simpson to sophomore Phil Pagan (Nashua, NH). Simpson (6-for-9 for 116 yards) tossed his third touchdown of the day later in the third quarter, a 44-yarder to sophomore RB Jason Bordas (Elmore, Vt.) to make it 19-7.
After Massahos scored his touchdown early in the fourth quarter, Bordas carried the ball the rest of the way, finishing with 38 yards on 12 attempts, as PSC ran out the clock.
Junior LB Chris Kelliher (Goffstown, NH/Trinity) and senior S Jason Marcell (Stoughton, Mass.) anchored a solid defensive effort, helping PSC limit Coast Guard to 192 yards of total offense. Kelliher finished with 14 tackles, including nine unassisted and one sack, while Marcell made a season-high 11 stops and a pass break-up. Senior DE Seth Howard (Manchester, N.H./Memorial) added eight tackles, including a sack.
"Anytime you get a win on the road in this conference, it's a good win," said PSC head coach Chris Rorke. "I think we played well today. We made some mistakes defensively in the first half, but we were able to clean it up in the second half. The key to this game was when we got to third-down situations, we were able to convert and keep drives alive."
Plymouth State can finish with a .500 record with victories in its last two games, avoiding its first losing season since 1979. The Panthers return home for the final two, hosting Mount Ida next Saturday (Nov. 4) and WPI in two weeks (Nov. 11).
"Right now we need to play for next year," added Massahos. "We have a lot of young people, and we feel we need to win out to get into the winter workouts on a positive note. Hopefully we can turn this negative experience (four-game losing streak) into a positive one for next year."