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Plymouth State Football stuns Curry with 28-17 triumph

PSU video highlights vs. Curry (Courtesy of Kevin Gray, New Hampshire Sunday News)

            PLYMOUTH, N.H. - Plymouth State University used a tenacious defense and big plays on offense Saturday afternoon, stunning five-time defending New England Football Conference champion Curry College with a 28-17 victory in a NEFC Boyd Division showdown at Currier Field.

            The Panthers take over first place in the Boyd Division with a 5-0 league record, winning their sixth game in a row to improve to 7-1 overall.  PSU also captured its 11th consecutive home game and in the process, snapped Curry's 37-game winning streak against NEFC opponents.  The Colonels, who have been ranked No. 1in New England every week this season, fall to 7-1 and 4-1.

            Plymouth State handed Curry its first loss to an NEFC opponent since Sept. 17, 2005, when the Colonels were defeated by Maine Maritime, 28-21. The vaunted Colonel offense, which was averaging 485 yards and nearly 40 points a game, was held to 296 yards by the Panther defense, including just 12 yards rushing.  Curry had the ball inside the Panther 20-yard line on all five of its first-half possessions, but came away with just 10 points.

            Several Panthers made big plays on offense.  Senior quarterback John DeMarco (Milford, N.H.) completed 3-of-4 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 51 yards and a score; sophomore receiver J.J. Brooks (Seabrook, N.H.) caught two passes for 107 yards, a 62-yard scoring strike and a 45-yard reception to set up another score; junior fullback Jay Baird (Worcester, Mass.) exploded for a 56-yard run to set up PSU's third touchdown; and senior Jeff Mack (Milford, N.H.) put the nail in the coffin with a 48-yard touchdown run with less than six minutes left in the game. Mack finished with 115 yards rushing and two touchdowns.

            Curry senior quarterback Ryan Van De Giesen (North Attleboro, Mass.) hooked up with junior Jeff Hibbard (Dedham, Mass.) for a 46-yard completion to the PSU 12-yard line on the first play from scrimmage, but the Colonels managed only a 37-yard field goal by sophomore Matt Alksninis (Mansfield, Mass.). Van De Giesen connected with senior Brian Taylor (Lowell, Mass.) on a 30-yard completion on the first play of Curry's next possession, getting to the Panther 11-yard line, but came up empty when Alksninis missed a 37-yard field goal attempt.

            PSU took over and went 80 yards on 13 plays on its next possession, culminating with a DeMarco four-yard TD run and a 7-3 Panther lead at the end of the first quarter.  The key play was when DeMarco hit Brooks down the right sideline, and Brooks made a terrific catch (see photo at right) before tip-toeing to the four yard-line to set up DeMarco's score for a 14-3 Panther lead. (Photo by Kevin Gray, N.H. Sunday News)

            Curry again took the ball to the PSU 10-yard line on its next possession, but again missed a 37-yard field goal. Plymouth State took over and five plays later, DeMarco connected with Brooks down the middle for a 62-yard touchdown pass.

            Curry scored its first touchdown midway through the second quarter on a five-yard run by junior Jamaal Woods (Malden, Mass.), and PSU took a 14-10 advantage into the locker room.

            After both teams had drives stall in the third quarter, Baird came off the Panther bench to rumble 56 yards up the middle, giving PSU first-and-goal at the Curry five-yard line.  Mack went into the end zone from three yards out to make it a 21-10 Panther lead after three quarters. Mack, who just 22 yards rushing in the first three quarters, exploded for 93 yards in the fourth quarter, including a 48-yard touchdown burst with 5:51 remaining to make it a 28-10 lead.

            Senior Steve DiFabio (Salem, N.H.) scored a touchdown for Curry on a four-yard run with 4:37 remaining to round out the scoring. PSU recovered the Colonels' onside kick with 4:36 remaining and then ran out the clock.

            The Panthers finished with 378 yards of offense while holding Curry to 296 yards.  PSU kept the potent Curry offense off the field, maintaining possession of the ball for over 37 minutes.

            Sophomore Steve Campbell (Northborough, Mass.) led the Panther defense with nine tackles and a sack.  Junior Jim Sestito (Foxborough, Mass.) pressured Van De Giesen all afternoon and finished with two tackles and a sack.

            Van De Gieson finished 20-of-40 for 284 yards and one interception.  Taylor finished with 10 catches for 114 yards. Sophomore Jason Madden (Sharon, Mass.) led the Colonels defense with 11 tackles, including seven solo stops.

            There are two weeks remaining in the regular season, and PSU needs just one win to clinch the Boyd Division title.  The Panthers travel to MIT for a 12 noon game next Saturday and wraps up the regular season on Nov. 8 at home against Salve Regina.  Curry hosts Nichols next Saturday at 1:00 p.m. and concludes the regular season in two weeks at UMass Dartmouth. 

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