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PSU Football hosts Endicott in key NEFC match-up

Panthers and Gulls tied for first in Boyd Division

GAME #7:     Endicott College (5-1, 3-0) at Plymouth State University (5-1, 3-0)
  Saturday, Oct. 16, 2010, 1:00 p.m., Currier Field, Plymouth, N.H.

            PLYMOUTH, N.H. – Two of the top Division III college football teams in New England converge on Currier Field this Saturday as Plymouth State University hosts Endicott College in a New England Football Conference Boyd Division affair.

            The Panthers and Gulls will kick off at 1:00 p.m. Saturday at Currier Field in Plymouth.  The two teams are tied for first place with Western New England College, all with unbeaten divisional records, and both have eyes on the Boyd Division crown.  Endicott is ranked fourth and Plymouth State seventh in this week’s Division III New England poll, and both teams are 5-1 overall, 3-0 in divisional games, and riding four-game winning streaks.

            Plymouth State extended its winning streak to four last Saturday with a 21-7 victory at MIT.  The Panther defense has been superb, allowing less than 200 yards in each of the last four games and giving up a total of 16 points in that stretch.  The defense contributed a touchdown in last week’s win when sophomore Peter LaBreck (Thornton, N.H.) returned a fumble 48 yards for a score.  The Panther offense has rushed for more than 200 yards in five of the six games this season as PSU runs the ball 85 percent of the time.  Plymouth State is ranked first in total defense among the 16 teams in the NEFC, allowing just 217 yards per game, while the offense is ranked seventh, gaining 293 yards per outing.

            Endicott is having its best season in several years, extending its winning streak to four with a 30-10 win over Nichols last Saturday.  The Gulls earned a statement victory two weeks ago with a 28-24 triumph over Curry, becoming the only Boyd Division team besides PSU to defeat the Colonels in the past five years.  Endicott has one of the top quarterbacks in the league in junior Phil Konopka, who has thrown for more than 1200 yards and 13 touchdowns.  The Gulls are ranked fifth in the NEFC in both total offense (301 yds/gm) and total defense (270 yds/gm).  Endicott is on its way to its first winning season since 2006, when the Gulls finished 6-4.

            Saturday’s game will be just the fifth career meeting between PSU and Endicott, and Plymouth State holds a 3-1 lead in the series. The Gulls took the series debut, 24-7 in 2006 in Beverly, while the Panthers have won the last three -- a 28-17 triumph in 2007 in Plymouth, a 36-14 verdict in 2008 in Beverly, and a 31-28 win last year in Plymouth.  Endicott led PSU 28-10 late in the third quarter last year before the Panthers rallied for the three-point victory.

PSU AT CURRIER FIELD: The Panthers got back on the winning track in its last home game with a victory over Nichols after having their 17-game home winning streak snapped earlier this season with a loss to Mount Ida. PSU was undefeated at home the past three seasons (5-0 the last two years and a 6-0 mark in 2007).  Plymouth State is 23-4 at home since 2005 and has an all-time home record of 142-55-3 for a .718 winning percentage.

NEW ENGLAND POLL:  Amherst College (3-0) owns the top spot in this week’s New England Division III poll, receiving 10 of the 20 first-place votes, while Springfield College (4-1) is second, getting eight top votes.  Williams (3-0) got the other two top votes and is ranked third, with Endicott (5-1) and Framingham State (5-1) remaining fourth and fifth, respectively.  The bottom half of the poll includes Maine Maritime (4-1), Plymouth State (5-1), Trinity (2-1), WNEC (5-1) and Norwich (5-1).

NEFC HONORS:  Sophomore DL Peter LaBreck made his first appearance on the NEFC Honor Roll last week, making a team-high nine tackles and returning a fumble for a touchdown in PSU’s victory over MIT.  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)
Sept. 27 QB J.J. Brooks (NEFC Honor Roll)
Oct. 4 LB Brian Castellucci (NEFC Honor Roll)
Oct. 11 DL Peter LaBreck (NEFC Honor Roll)

NEFC LEADERS:  Several Panthers are among the NEFC statistical leaders. Sophomore RB Ty Long (Dover, N.H.) is ranked seventh in rushing (85.3 yds/gm) and sixth in all-purpose yards (105.7 per game); Senior LB Brian Castellucci (Derry, N.H.) is tied for 12th in tackles (8.0/gm); and senior DB Zach Parsons (Florence, Mass.) is tied for third with two forced fumbles and tied for fourth with three interceptions.  On special teams, sophomore Nick Provost (Stratham, N.H.) the sixth-leading punter in the NEFC with a 37.3 punting average; and junior Christian Mulcahy (Norwich, Conn.) is the second-leading kick returner (25.4 avg.) and ranks eighth in kick scoring (3-of-4 on field goals, 12-of-14 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. 

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.

PSU FOOTBALL HISTORY:  PSU entered the 2010 campaign with the 12th-highest career winning percentage (.644) among NCAA Division III football programs. 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, led by former Heisman Trophy candidate and Sports Illustrated cover man Joe Dudek.  PSU was also a member of the now-defunct Freedom Football Conference from 1992-2003, winning FFC Championships in 1994, 1995 and 2001. PSU rejoined the NEFC in 2006 and won its 10th NEFC title in 2008. 

A LOOK AHEAD:  Plymouth State has another tough game on tap next Saturday when Western New England College comes to Currier Field.  WNEC enters today tied with PSU and Endicott atop the Boyd Division standings.  After the final road trip of the season to Salve Regina on Oct. 30, PSU hosts defending champion Curry in the regular season finale on Nov. 6.  Endicott visits UMass Dartmouth next Saturday and wraps up the season with home games against WNEC and MIT.

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