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Panthers open FFC slate at Norwich

GAME #3: Plymouth State College (1-1, 0-0) at Norwich University (1-2, 0-1) Sat., Sept. 22, 2001, 1:30 p.m., Sabine Field, Northfield, Vt.

PLYMOUTH, N.H. - Plymouth State College opens the Freedom Football Conference portion of its 2001 slate this Saturday when the Panthers travels to Northfield, Vt., to take on Norwich University.

The Panthers and Cadets will kick-off at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Sabine Field. It is a match-up of the teams picked third (PSC) and fourth (NU) in the FFC pre-season poll.

PSC has split its first two games, and pair of non-conference home affairs. The Panthers were edged in the closing minutes by Rensselaer in the opener, 17-14, but came back last Saturday with a 34-20 victory over UMass Dartmouth. Plymouth State is ranked sixth in the current ECAC New England Division III Poll.

Norwich is off to a 1-2 start, with a loss in its first FFC game. After opening with a pair of losses to Curry (20-19) and Kings Point (37-0), the Cadets picked up their first victory of the season last Saturday at St. John Fisher (N.Y.), 19-14.

These two schools have met 16 times on the gridiron, with Plymouth State winning 12. The Panthers have captured all nine contests since the two schools helped form the Freedom Conference in 1992. The teams didn't play each other from 1985-91, but Norwich won four out of seven games between 1975 and 1984. The last Cadet victory was a 31-0 whitewash in 1983. PSC won last year's contest in Plymouth, 14-9.

Plymouth State piled up more than 400 yards of offense for the second straight week with a 408-yard effort against UMass Dartmouth. The Panthers are leading the conference in total offense with 436.5 yards per game. The only ones stopping the PSC offense are the Panthers themselves, having registered 11 turnovers (six fumbles, five interceptions) in two games.

The Panther defense has spent plenty of time in the opponents' backfield. PSC sacked UMD quarterback John Falcone eight times, and now leads the league with 12 sacks.

WEEKLY FFC HONORS: PSC had three individuals honored by the FFC for their performances against UMD. Russ Massahos was the FFC Offensive Player of the Week (12 carries, 90 yards, 1 TD, 2 catches, 14 yards), Mike Bardellini was the FFC Special Teams Player of the Week (61-yard punt return for TD, 3 catches, 22 yards, TD), and Brian Chaplain was on the Defensive Honor Roll (11 tackles, 9 solo, 3 sacks).

MILESTONES: PSC running back Russ Massahos (Windham, N.H.) moved into third place on the school's career rushing list against UMD. The Panther co-captain now has 2,534 yards, and he needs only 50 more to pass Shawn Redburn (2,583 yards from 1994-96) for the No. 2 position. Massahos has virtually no chance of catching all-time leading rusher Joe Dudek, who finished with 5,291 rushing yards from 1982-85.

NEW ENGLAND POLL: Freedom Football Conference member Western Connecticut (1-0) holds down the top spot in this week's ECAC New England Division III poll. Worcester State (3-0), Amherst (0-0), Curry (3-0) and Salve Regina (2-0) round out the top five. Plymouth State (1-1) is sixth, followed by Colby (0-0), UMass Dartmouth (1-1), Middlebury (0-0), and Westfield State (2-0). Also receiving votes were Springfield and Wesleyan.

RECORD-SETTER: Senior tight end John Walters (Wells, Maine) set a Panther single-game record against RPI with 12 receptions, amassing 180 yards. That performance broke the old mark off 11, set by Scott Anson in 1982 against Massachusetts Maritime. His 15-yard reception set up PSC's first TD early in the third quarter, and his catches of 13 and 21 yards led to PSC's game-tying fourth quarter touchdown.

FFC PRE-SEASON POLL: Springfield, 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. Western Connecticut got the other three top votes and was picked second, followed by PSC in third, Norwich in fourth, Kings Point fifth, WPI sixth, and Coast Guard seventh.

ALL-TIME SUCCESS: The Panthers entered the 2001 season as the winningest Division III football program in the NCAA with at least 25 years on the gridiron. PSC has an all-time winning percentage of .696 with an overall record of 206-88-7, just ahead of Wisconsin-Lacrosse, which has a .695 winning percentage in 76 years of football (470-195-40).

A LOOK AHEAD: To balance PSC's schedule, and avoid continuing to play three straight FFC home games one year and three consecutive FFC road games the following year, the Panthers will play Western Connecticut for the second year in a row in Danbury, Conn., next Saturday (Sept. 29). Plymouth State returns to Currier Field on Oct. 6th to host Kings Point.