GAME #8: Plymouth State University (6-1, 4-0) at Curry College (5-2, 4-0)
Saturday, Oct. 24, 2009, 1:00 p.m., Walter M. Katz Field, Milton, Mass.
PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The regular season title of the New England Football Conference's Boyd Division will be on the line this Saturday when Plymouth State University travels to Curry College for the biggest game of the year for both schools.
The Panthers (6-1 overall) and Colonels (5-2) will kick off at 1:00 p.m. Saturday at Katz Field in Milton, Mass. The two teams are tied atop the Boyd Division with 4-0 records and will have two games remaining after Saturday, so the winner will be in the driver's seat for the division crown. PSU won the Boyd Division and NEFC championships last season after Curry had done it the previous five years. The Panthers have also won 13 straight Boyd Division games since losing to Curry in 2007, and the Colonels have taken 35 of their last 36 Boyd Division games since 2004, with its only setback to PSU last year.
Ranked third in this week's New England Division III poll, Plymouth State extended its winning streak to six games last Saturday with a 48-30 victory over Nichols College. The offense piled up a season-high 478 yards, its fourth straight 400-yard performance. The Panthers have also scored at least 28 points in every game this season, with last week's 48 points the most since scoring 49 in a win over Western New England College in September 2007. PSU has also been strong on special teams this season and leads the NEFC in kick-off returns and punting.
The Colonels, ranked sixth in the New England Division III poll, have won five in a row since losses to Bentley and Widener (Pa.) to open the season. The Curry defense hasn't allowed more than 10 points in the five-game win streak, including last Saturday's 37-6 rout of Endicott last Saturday when the Gulls didn't score until the final minute of the game. The Colonels give up less than 100 rushing yards and 300 total yards per game while making a league-high 22 sacks. Curry was the pre-season favorite in the NEFC Coaches poll.
PSU is hoping for a repeat of last season when the Panthers defeated Curry 28-17 at Currier Field in Plymouth, stopping the Colonels' 37-game winning streak against NEFC opponents and snapping their stranglehold on the NEFC and the Boyd Division.
Saturday marks the 26th career meeting in football between Plymouth State and Curry, and the Panthers hold a 17-8 lead in the series that dates back to 1971. Curry won six of the first seven games in the 1970s, and PSU dominated the next two decades, with 15 consecutive victories between 1978 and 1997. The Colonels prevailed in the first two games when PSU rejoined the NEFC, winning 40-26 in 2006 and 42-14 in 2007 before PSU took last year's showdown.
STREAKS ALIVE: Plymouth State is riding several winning streaks. The Panthers have won six in a row this season since its dramatic 5-OT loss on opening day at Saint Anselm. PSU has won all four Boyd Division games this year, extending its regular season divisional winning streak to 13 straight, dating back to 2007. The Panthers have also captured 16 consecutive victories at Currier Field, dating back to 2006.
NEW ENGLAND POLL: Trinity maintained the top spot in this week's New England Division III poll, receiving 13 of the 16 first-place votes. Springfield is second (with one first-place vote) and Plymouth State third, with the final two top votes. Amherst and Williams round out the top five, while the bottom half of the poll includes Curry, Maine Maritime, Bridgewater State, Westfield State, and WPI.
NEFC LEADERS: Several Panthers are among the NEFC statistical leaders, led by QB J.J. Brooks (Seabrook, N.H./Winnacunnet), who ranks first in pass efficiency, fourth in total offense, sixth in scoring and eighth in passing offense. Senior WR Alex Smith (Walpole, Mass.) is now seventh in receiving yards per game, and senior captain Alex Battaglino (Avon, Conn.) is tied for the NEFC lead in sacks and tied for seventh in tackles-for-loss. Sophomore Christian Mulcahy (Norwich, Conn.), tops the NEFC in kickoff returns with an average of 28.8 yards with one touchdown; Mulcahy is also second in kick scoring, converting 27-of-30 on extra point kicks and 5-of-9 on field goal tries. Freshman Nick Provost (Stratham, N.H.) is averaging 46.7 yards a punt and would be the conference leader but doesn't have enough games played to meet the NEFC and NCAA minimum.
OH BROTHER: Many offensive linemen refer to their fellow line mates as their brothers, but for the Panthers, they mean it. For the second year in a row, PSU has two sets of brothers starting on the offensive line, opening the holes for PSU's powerful ground game. Seniors Matt Vahey and Mike Vahey of Fremont, N.H. (Pinkerton) are joined by junior Nick Fuccillo and freshman Xander Fuccillo of East Falmouth, Mass. (Falmouth). The fifth starter is senior Zac Duval of Dover, N.H., who played alongside his brother Joe Duval the past two seasons before Joe's graduation last year. PSU has another set of brothers as well, junior QB J.J. Brooks and junior linebacker Zack Brooks of Seabrook, N.H.
NEFC HONORS: Junior J.J. Brooks was a repeat selection on the NEFC weekly honor roll this week after completing all nine of his passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns in last Saturday's win over Nichols. Here are the Panthers who have received weekly honors this season:
Sept. 7 DB Christian Mulcahy (NEFC Defensive Player/Week)
Sept. 14 QB J.J. Brooks (NEFC Honor Roll)
Sept. 21 QB J.J. Brooks (NEFC Offensive Player/Week, ECAC Northeast Co-Player/Week)
Sept. 28 QB J.J. Brooks (NEFC Honor Roll), DE Jim Sestito (NEFC Honor Roll)
Oct. 5 QB J.J. Brooks (NEFC Honor Roll), LB Mike Bruning (NEFC Honor Roll)
Oct. 12 WR John Creamer (NEFC Honor Roll)
Oct. 19 QB J.J. Brooks (NEFC Honor Roll)
PSU AT CURRIER FIELD: The Panthers bring a 15-game home winning streak into today's game. PSU is 3-0 at home this season after going 6-0 and 5-0 at Currier Field in 2007 and 2008, respectively, the eighth and ninth unbeaten home records in school history. Plymouth State has an all-time home record of 139-54-3 for a .717 winning percentage. PSU is 20-3 at home since 2005.
PSU FOOTBALL HISTORY: After beginning its football program in 1970, Plymouth State was a member of the NEFC from 1971-91, winning or sharing nine titles in those 21 seasons. The Panthers won or shared eight straight NEFC championships from 1981-88. PSU has the 12th-highest career winning percentage (.636) among all NCAA Division III football programs.
A LOOK AHEAD: The Panthers return to Currier Field next Saturday, Oct. 31, for the annual Senior Day affair against MIT, and then wraps up the regular season the first weekend in November at Salve Regina. Curry concludes its season with games next Saturday at Nichols and Nov. 7 at home against winless UMass Dartmouth.
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