PLYMOUTH, N.H. - Sophomore Steve Campbell (Northborough, Mass./Algonquin) rushed 16 times for 177 yards and four touchdowns Saturday afternoon at Currier Field to lead Plymouth State University to a 34-7 victory over Salve Regina University in the New England Football Conference Boyd Division finale for both teams.
The Panthers won their eighth straight contest and 12th in a row at Currier Field, improving to 9-1 on the season. PSU also claimed the Boyd Division crown with a 7-0 mark, and will travel to Bogan Division co-winner Maine Maritime Academy next Saturday for the NEFC Championship game. Salve concludes its season at 4-5 overall and 3-4 in conference play, its best season in eight years.
Cambell, who has started every game at linebacker for PSU, moved to offense with Panther star running back Jeff Mack (Milford, N.H.) on the sideline with the flu. Campbell had a nine-yard scoring run in the first quarter, four-yard and career-long 61-yard TD scampers in the third quarter, and rounded out the scoring with a three-yard touchdown burst early in the fourth quarter.
It was a close game for the first half, with the home team leading just 14-7 at the break. But PSU wore down the Seahawks in the second half and scored 20 unanswered points. The Panthers finished with a 433-257 advantage in total offense, including a 374-33 margin in rushing yardage, and enjoyed a 13-minute margin in time of possession.
(John DeMarco, left, runs for a first-quarter gain against Salve Regina. Photo Courtesy of Kevin Gray, N.H. Union Leader.)
Campbell scored on PSU's first possession, capping an 11-play, 86-yard drive with his first TD of the day. The Panthers put together another long drive in the second quarter (12 plays, 80 yards), with sophomore fullback Chris Francher (Weare, N.H./John Stark) taking it into the end zone from one yard out to put the home team ahead, 14-0.
Salve came back with its best drive of the day late in the second quarter after blocking a Panther field goal attempt. The Seahawks went 73 yards in 12 plays, with junior quarterback Jeff St. Onge (Kingston, N.H./Central Catholic) sneaking it in from one yard out with 38 seconds showing on the second quarter clock. St. Onge ended up finishing the game 14-of-22 for 178 yards.
Sophomore Zach Parsons (Florence, Mass.) intercepted a Salve pass early in the third quarter to give the Panthers the ball near midfield, and Campbell scored for PSU six plays later on a four-yard run. The Seahawks went three-and-out on their next possession, and Campbell broke loose for a 61-yard touchdown run to make it a 27-7 contest.
Campbell had a 22-yard burst early in the fourth quarter to bring the ball down to Salve's three-yard line, and took it into the end zone himself on the next play to round out the scoring.
The Panthers got another strong game from its defense, which leads the NEFC in fewest yards and points allowed. Sophomore Brian Castellucci (Derry, N.H./Pinkerton) led the way with seven tackles, while junior Jim Sestito (Foxborough, Mass.) made four tackles, including two sacks.
PSU will be seeking its 10th NEFC Championship, with the first nine coming between 1981 and 1990. The Panthers are out for their first conference title since sharing the Freedom Football Conference championship in 2001.
The winner of next Saturday's NEFC title game will receive an automatic berth in the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament. PSU has made three NCAA appearances - 1984, 1994 and 1995.
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