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Panthers host Coast Guard in home finale

GAME #8: U.S. Coast Guard Academy (2-4, 1-2 FFC) at Plymouth State College (4-3, 3-1 FFC) Sat., Oct. 27, 2001, 12:00 p.m., Currier Field, Plymouth, N.H.

PLYMOUTH, N.H. - Both teams will be looking to get back on the winning track Saturday when Plymouth State College hosts the Coast Guard Academy in a Freedom Football Conference affair.

The Panthers and Bears will kick-off at 12 noon Saturday at Currier Field, the last regular season home game for PSC. Plymouth State was upended in a non-conference game last Saturday at Bentley, but at 4-3 still has sights set on at least part of the FFC championship and/or a post-season berth. Coast Guard (2-4) has dropped its last two outings after a two-game winning streak that had gotten the Bears back to the .500 mark.

PSC is alone in second place in the FFC, a game behind Western Connecticut. The Panthers are hoping for wins in their last three games, which would give them a 7-3 overall record. They know that won't guarantee a post-season berth, but PSC played in three straight ECAC Championship games from 1997-99 after finishing 7-3 in the regular season.

Picked to finish in the basement of the FFC, Coast Guard has already matched last year's win total when the Bears finished 2-8. They were winless in FFC games last year, and they own a conference triumph over Norwich this year. The Bears also picked up a victory over Utica to get to 2-2 before falling to tough Western Connecticut and Union teams the past two weekends.

Plymouth State has won seven of the nine games between these two schools since they helped form the FFC together in 1992, and seven of 10 overall. Coast Guard won the first encounter 28-19 in the 1988 ECAC North Championship game. The Bears' other wins were in '96 and '97, while PSC won four straight from ‘92-95 and has taken the last three. Plymouth State won last year's game in New London, Conn., 25-7, as well as the most recent contest in Plymouth in 1999, 42-0.

PSC running back Russ Massahos (Windham, N.H.) will be looking to make some history Saturday, as he is trying to become the 22nd player in New England Division III history to rush for over 3,000 yards. Massahos enters the game with 2,973 career rushing yards. He is second on the PSC career rushing list, trailing Joe Dudek's 5,291 yards from 1982-85.

FFC PICTURE: With two FFC games to play, Western Connecticut appears in the driver's seat in the conference race. The Colonials are 4-0 in conference play, with their remaining opponents WPI (1-2) and Norwich (0-4). Plymouth State (3-1) is the only school with just one loss, while Coast Guard (1-2) is one of four schools with two losses all fighting for third place.

NEW ENGLAND POLL: Western Connecticut (6-0) regained the top spot in the ECAC New England Division III poll, with Worcester State (8-0) dropping down to second. Both schools received five first-place votes. Unbeatens Amherst (5-0), Westfield State (7-0), and Williams (5-0) take up the next three spots. Once-beaten Curry (7-1) and Tufts (5-1) are in the sixth and seventh spots, followed by Nichols (5-2), UMass Dartmouth (5-2) and Plymouth State (4-3).

PANTHER SENIORS: Saturday will mark the final regular season home game of the Panther senior class. The group includes Mike Bardellini, Ryan Cassidy, Brian Chaplain, Anthony Egan, Tim Hersey, Greg Johnson, Ian Kaylor, Chris Kelliher, Russ Masshos, Bobby Maylone, Mike Pelletier, John Riter, Ben Sirota, Cory Skillin, Shaun Spaulding, Jim Stacy, John Walters, and Chad Zibolis.

FFC LEADERS: Several Panthers are ranked among the FFC statistical leaders. Senior TE John Walters is ranked second in receptions (4.86/game) and third in receiving yards (68.6/game), and senior RB Russ Massahos is leading the league in scoring (6.9 points/game) and ranks third in rushing (87.4 yards/game). Senior LB Chris Kelliher is the FFC leader in tackles (10.6 per game) and senior LB Brian Chaplain in the sack co-leader with 5.5. Senior P Bob Maylone is third in the FFC in punting average (37.4).

A LOOK AHEAD: Plymouth State hits the road for its final two regular season games. The Panthers will play a non-conference battle next Saturday at Mount Ida in Newton, Mass., and wrap up the regular season on Nov. 10th with an FFC contest at WPI.

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