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PSU Football opens Boyd Division play

Panthers make a visit to UMass Dartmouth

GAME #4:  Plymouth State University (2-1, 0-0) at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (1-2, 0-0)
  Saturday, Sept. 25, 2010, 12:00 p.m., Cressy Field, North Dartmouth, Mass.

            PLYMOUTH, N.H. – Divisional play begins this week in the New England Football Conference as Plymouth State University travels to the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth for a Boyd Division match-up.

            The Panthers and Corsairs will kick off at 12 noon Saturday at Cressy Field in North Dartmouth, Mass. PSU won two of its three non-divisional games this season, including a 17-0 shutout over Bridgewater State University last Saturday.  UMD won its opener but has suffered consecutive losses to BSU and Maine Maritime, the top two teams in the Bogan Division.  Plymouth State was picked to finish second in the Boyd Division this season, while UMD finished eighth in the preseason poll.

            PSU limited previously unbeaten Bridgewater State to 152 yards last Saturday, more than 150 yards below its season average.  The outcome was Plymouth State’s first whitewash since blanking UMass Dartmouth last September and gave Bridgewater its first shutout defeat since 2002. The Panther offense managed just 165 yards but put together a pair of scoring drives and capitalized on a BSU special teams mistake with a key touchdown late in the first half. PSU ranks in the middle of the pack in the NEFC on both sides of the ball, ranking seventh among the 16 teams on defense (275 yards/game) and 11th on offense (262 yards/game).

            UMass Dartmouth posted 10 straight seasons at .500 or better from 2000-08 until suffering an 0-10 campaign a year ago.  The Corsairs got off to a solid start this fall with a 37-15 victory over Fitchburg State but Bridgewater scored 10 points in the fourth quarter in week two to pull out a 10-7 triumph, and powerhouse Maine Maritime rolled past UMD last week, 42-7. The Corsair offense is ranked eighth in the NEFC, averaging 288 yards/game, but the defense is in the cellar, giving up 408 yards/contest.

            This Saturday will be the 12th career meeting on the gridiron between PSU and UMD, with the Panthers holding an 8-3 lead in the all-time series. The Panthers won the first three encounters in 1994, 1995 and 2001, but UMD came back with three straight wins from 2002-04 to even the series.  PSU has now won five in a row, including a 34-0 victory last year at Cressy Field.

40TH ANNIVERSARY:  Plymouth State will mark the 40th anniversary of its football program next Saturday, Oct. 2, with the home game against Nichols College.  The first varsity football game in Panther history was in Plymouth against Nichols College on Saturday, Oct. 3, 1970.  The Panthers returned the opening kickoff back for a touchdown, but Nichols won the game, 41-13. 

NEW ENGLAND POLL:  Springfield College (3-0) received 14 of the 17 first-place votes and topped the first New England Division III football poll of the season.  Maine Maritine (2-0) got the other three top votes and finished second, with Norwich (3-0), Amherst (0-0) and Curry (2-1) rounding out the top five.  The bottom half of the poll includes Trinity (0-0), Williams (0-0), Endicott (2-1), Plymouth State (2-1) and Middlebury (9-0). 

NEFC PRE-SEASON POLL:  The Panthers were picked to finish second in the Boyd Division in the NEFC preseason coaches’ poll.  Curry topped the poll with six first-place votes, while PSU was second with one top vote.  Endicott got the other top vote and was ranked third, followed by WNEC, Nichols, Salve Regina, MIT and UMass Dartmouth. Defending NEFC champion Maine Maritime led the Bogan Division polling, with Bridgewater State runner-up.  Curry was picked to win the overall NEFC title with 11 of the 16 votes, with PSU and Maine Maritime getting two votes and Bridgewater one. 

NEFC HONORS:  Senior LB Brian Castellucci (Derry, N.H.) made his second appearance on the NEFC Weekly Honor Roll last week, making nine tackles and leading PSU to a shutout victory.  Here are the Panthers who have received NEFC weekly honors this season:                                                       

            Sept. 6        RB Ty Long, LB Brian Castellucci (NEFC Honor Roll)

            Sept. 13      RB Ty Long (NEFC Honor Roll)

            Sept. 20      LB Brian Castellucci (NEFC Honor Roll) 

NEFC LEADERS:  Several Panthers are among the NEFC statistical leaders. Sophomore RB Ty Long (Dover, N.H.) is ranked fifth in rushing (99.3 yds/gm), senior LB Brian Castellucci (Derry, N.H.) is ranked sixth in tackles (10.3/gm) and senior DB Zach Parsons (Florence, Mass.) is tied for third with two forced fumbles.  On special teams, sophomore Nick Provost (Stratham, N.H.) is leading the NEFC with a 42.6 punting average, and junior Christian Mulcahy (Norwich, Conn.) the leading kick returner (29.3 avg.) and tied for sixth in kick scoring (2-of-3 on field goals, 5-of-6 on PATs). 

RETURNING ALL-STARS:  PSU has several returnees who previously received post-season honors.  Senior DB Zach Parsons and senior LB Brian Castellucci were First Team All-NEFC selections last year, and senior LB Harry Fallon was a Second Team pick.  Senior DB Kevin Whalen was also a First Team honoree in 2008.  On the offense, QB JJ Brooks was a Second Team selection last season and RB Ty Long was the NEFC Boyd Division Rookie of the Year.  PSU was also represented on special teams, as sophomore punter Nick Provost was voted to the First Team and junior Christian Mulcahy was a Second Team pick as a return specialist. 

PANTHER CAPTAINS:  After having only one captain last year, the Panthers have five co-captains this season, all seniors.  They are quarterback J.J. Brooks (Seabrook, N.H.), linebackers Brian Castellucci (Derry, N.H.) and Harry Fallon (Hampton Falls, N.H.), and defensive backs Zach Parsons (Florence, Mass.) and Kevin Whalen (Wallingford, Conn.).

PSU FOOTBALL HISTORY:  Plymouth State began its football program in 1970 and 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 (.644) among all NCAA Division III football programs.

A LOOK AHEAD:  After opening the season on the road for three of its first four games, PSU will be at home for three of its next four, beginning with Nichols next Saturday, Oct. 2, for the 40th Anniversary celebration. UMD will be on the road next week at MIT.

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