PLYMOUTH, N.H. - For the second straight week, Plymouth State University used a power running game Saturday afternoon to capture a New England Football Conference game at Currier Field.
The Panthers gained 178 of their 231 yards on the ground, and scored all three touchdowns on running plays en route to a 19-18 nailbiter before a Homecoming and Family Week crowd of 2,130. PSU got 234 of its 243 yards on the ground in last Saturday's win over UMass Dartmouth.
It was again the strong running combination of senior quarterback Tye Seastedt (Danville, N.H./Timberlane), junior tailback Jeff Mack (Milford, N.H./Milford) and sophomore fullback John DeMarco (Milford, N.H./Milford). Seastedt rushed 14 times for 72 yards, Mack added 47 yards on 15 carries and one touchdown, and DeMarco contributed 14 carries, 57 yards and two touchdowns.
Mack's TD from three yards out with 13 minutes left in the fourth quarter put the home team ahead 19-18, but the game wasn't decided until the final seconds. WNEC took over at its own 20 yard line with 3:02 remaining, and drove into PSC territory before the Panther defense held, preventing further damage and sealing the win.
"This was a huge win for us, especially the way it happened, with two turnovers in the first quarter," said PSU head coach Paul Castonia. "We kept fighting back. Today it was a combination of offense, defense and special teams. All three of those aspects of our game are improving."
Two Panther fumbles in the first quarter gave WNEC outstanding field position, and the Golden Bears capitalized. Five plays after recovering a fumble at the Panther 18 yard line, junior QB Pat Murphy (Kensington, N.H./Exeter) ran it in from 14 yards out to put the Golden Bears on the board. PSU blocked the extra point attempt and it was 6-0.
PSU fumbled again on its next possession and WNEC recovered at the Panther 45. Six plays later, sophomore James Farrell (East Longmeadow, Mass.) kicked a 34-yard field goal to make it 9-0.
Plymouth State got on the board in the second quarter on the ensuing possession on DeMarco's first TD of the day, a three-yard burst, and Seastedt kicked his first career PAT to make it 9-7. WNEC responded with a 19-play, 86-yard drive that consumed over nine minutes, with Farrell capping the drive with a 21-yard field goal with 3:22 on the clock to make it 12-7.
The Panthers came right back with an 11-play, 66-yard drive in the closing seconds of the half, with DeMarco scoring on a four-yard run with 20 seconds on the clock. Seastedt's kick failed, but PSU led 13-12 at the break.
WNEC scored the only TD of the third quarter on a 57-yard pass play from Murphy to sophomore RB Jordan Capitanio (Torrington, Conn.)
PSU sophomore Andrew Zambrano (Sandown, N.H./Timberlane) blocked a punt for the second week in a row, this time early in the fourth quarter that gave the Panthers the ball at the WNEC 11 yard line. Two plays later, Mack scored on a three-yard run for what proved to be the winning margin.
"We work a lot on our special teams, and it's starting to pay off," added Castonia. "That one, like the one last week, was deep in the opponent's territory and led to a touchdown."
WNEC outgained PSU in total yards, 305-231. Murphy finished 12-of-23 for 156 yards for the Golden Bears, while Seastedt was 6-of-8 for 53 yards for the Panthers.
Senior Jimmy Kantany (East Longmeadow, Mass.) made 11 tackles (10 solo) and recovered a fumble to lead the WNEC defense. Senior LB Tim Butler (Concord, Mass.) made nine tackles for PSU, and sophomore Mike Lannon (Sharon, Mass.) made six tackles, two pass break-ups and one forced fumble.
"We were a little sloppy in the first half, holding on to the ball and with our tackling," said Castonia, "but in the second half we played a little more football smart."
PSU, 2-2 overall and 2-0 in the NEFC Boyd Division, plays a conference game next Saturday at Endicott (5:30 p.m.) WNEC returns home to host UMass Dartmouth (1:00 p.m.)
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