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PSU Football to meet Springfield in ECAC Northeast Bowl

GAME #11:   ECAC Division III Northeast Bowl

                       Plymouth State University (8-2) at Springfield College (7-2)

                       Saturday, Nov. 21, 2009, 12:00 p.m., Amos Alonzo Stagg Field, Springfield, Mass. 

            PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The Plymouth State University football team will make its third straight post-season appearance this Saturday when the Panthers visit Springfield College for the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Division III Northeast Bowl.

            The Panthers and Pride will kick off at 12 noon Saturday at Amos Alonzo Stagg Field in Springfield, Mass.  PSU earned a post-season berth after finishing the regular season with an 8-2 overall record and in second place in the New England Football Conference's Boyd Division with a 6-1 mark, while Springfield received a bid after going 7-2 in the regular season and finishing in a tie for third place with Ithaca College in the Empire-8 Conference with a 3-2 mark.

            Ranked seventh in this week's New England Division III poll, Plymouth State features a power running game and an opportunistic passing attack under seventh-year head coach Paul Castonia. PSU, which ran the ball on 535 of 648 plays from scrimmage (82.6%), ranked third in the 16-team NEFC with 255 rushing yards per game (4.8 yards per carry) and second with more than 31 points per game.  The Panthers threw only 113 passes in 10 games but led the league in pass efficiency, gaining 1,183 yards and 15 touchdowns while being intercepted only five times.  The PSU defense allowed only 128 yards rushing and 18 points per game, and the Panthers had one of the top special teams units in the NEFC, topping the conference in net punting and ranking among the leaders in both punt and kick-off returns.

            Ranked third in the New England Division III poll, Springfield returned to prominence this season after back-to-back 4-6 records the past two years.  The Pride feature a multiple-option offense under 28th-year head coach Mike DeLong, and currently ranked second nationally in rushing offense with 354 yards per game (5.9 yards per carry).  Like PSU, Springfield runs the ball the majority of the time, handing the ball off 86.8% of its plays (540 rushes, 82 passes).

            Plymouth State is making its record 13th ECAC post-season appearance.  The Panthers have posted a 4-8 mark in previous ECAC games, including a 24-21 victory over Bridgewater State in the ECAC North Atlantic Bowl in 2007.  Plymouth State also competed in ECAC post-season games in 1983, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1997, 1998, and 1999.  The Panthers have played in four NCAA Tournaments, including a loss to Cortland State in 2008.

            Saturday will be Springfield's third ECAC playoff game in its history, and first since 2004. SC also hosted an ECAC playoff game in 1995, the first year it went to the Division III ranks. It will be the Pride's first playoff game of any kind since it went to the NCAA Tournament in 2006. 

CAREER SERIES:  Saturday's contest will be the 12th career meeting between PSU and Springfield, with most of the previous encounters coming when both schools were members of the Freedom Football Conference.  The Pride hold an 8-3 lead in the all-time series, including wins in the last four meetings from 2002-05.  Plymouth State defeated Springfield in the first career meeting in 1995, and again in 1997 and 2001.  PSU has a 0-5 career mark at Amos Alonzo Stagg Field. 

AROUND THE ECAC:  There are five other ECAC Bowl games this weekend, two in the North region and three in the South.  The other North region games include Hartwick at Union in the North Atlantic Bowl and Cortland State at St. John Fisher in the Northwest Bowl.  The South region games include Ursinus at Kean in the Southeast Bowl, Wilkes at Franklin & Marshall in the South Atlantic Bowl, and Salisbury at Lebanon Valley in the Southwest Bowl. 

NEW ENGLAND POLL:  Plymouth State (8-2) stayed in seventh place in the final New England Division III poll of the season, while Springfield (7-2) remained in third. Amherst College received all 15 top votes after its undefeated season (8-0) to earn the top spot, while Maine Maritime (9-1) jumped up to second after stunning Curry College in the NEFC Championship game.  Curry (8-3) and Williams (6-2) tied for fourth in the final poll, while Trinity (6-2), PSU, Westfield State (7-3), Norwich (8-3) and Bridgewater State (7-3) comprise the bottom half of the poll. 

ALL-NEFC:  There were 12 Panthers who received NEFC Boyd Division All-Star honors this season, including nine on the First Team and two major award winners.  The top awards went to senior offensive tackle Zac Duval (Dover, N.H.), who was named Boyd Division Offensive Lineman of the Year and First Team All-Star, and freshman running back Ty Long (Dover, N.H.) was voted Offensive Rookie of the Year.  Joining Duval on the First Team were senior OT Matt Vahey (Fremont, N.H./Pinkerton), senior WR Alex Smith (Walpole, Mass.), senior DE Jim Sestito (Foxboro, Mass.) and DT Alex Battaglino (Avon, Conn.), junior LB Brian Castellucci (Derry, N.H./Pinkerton), junior safety Zach Parsons (Florence, Mass.), sophomore KR Christian Mulcahy (Norwich, Conn./St. Bernards), and freshman punter Nick Provost (Stratham, N.H./Exeter). In addition, and junior QB J.J. Brooks (Seabrook, N.H./Winnacunnet) and junior LB Harry Fallon (Hampton Falls, N.H./Winnacunnet) were named to the Boyd Division Second Team. 

NEFC HONORS:  PSU was regularly represented on the NEFC Weekly Honor Roll this season, only missing out one week all year.  Here are the Panthers who 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)

        Nov. 2         RB Ty Long (NEFC Honor Roll), DT Alex Battaglino (NEFC Honor Roll)

        Nov. 9         QB J.J. Brooks (NEFC Honor Roll), DE Jim Sestito (NEFC Honor Roll) 

PSU AT CURRIER FIELD: The Panthers were hoping for a home game for the ECAC play-offs, after extending their home winning streak this year to 17 games. PSU was 5-0 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 141-54-3 for a .720 winning percentage.  PSU is 22-3 at home since 2005. 

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 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.

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