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PSU Football to host WNEC in another key NEFC battle

Panthers and Golden Bears last two unbeatens in Boyd Division

GAME #8:   Western New England College (6-1, 4-0) at Plymouth State University (6-1, 4-0)
  Saturday, Oct. 23, 2010, 1:00 p.m., Currier Field, Plymouth, N.H.

            PLYMOUTH, N.H. – The last two unbeaten teams in the New England Football Conference square off this Saturday when Plymouth State University hosts Western New England College in a pivotal Boyd Division affair.

            The Panthers and Golden Bears will kick off at 1:00 p.m. Saturday at Currier Field in Plymouth.  Both teams are riding long winning streaks and have moved into the top seven in the New England Division III poll.  Saturday’s winner will be in the driver’s seat to claim this year’s Boyd Division race, with two conference games remaining.

            Plymouth State, which has won 19 of its last 20 Boyd Division games dating back to 2007, extended its winning streak this season to five games last Saturday with a hard-fought 10-3 victory over Endicott. The Panther defense was once again outstanding, limiting Endicott to a field goal, which was 27 points below its season average. A big play on special teams set up the winning touchdown, and the Panther offense put together a game-clinching drive in the fourth quarter.  The PSU starting defense has allowed only 10 points in the last five games combined, and the only touchdown came at MIT when the Engineers recovered a blocked punt at the PSU six-yard line.  Plymouth State is ranked first in total defense among the 16 teams in the NEFC, allowing just 221 yards per game, while the offense is ranked seventh, gaining 287 yards per outing.

            Western New England posted its school-record sixth straight win last Saturday with a 27-10 triumph over MIT.  The Golden Bears also recorded a statement victory two weeks ago with a 27-23 win at Curry, the first over the Colonels in 11 meetings dating back to 2000.  WNEC made its first appearance ever in the New England poll last week in the ninth spot before moving up to seventh this week.  The Golden Bears rolled up 484 yards of offense, 371 on the ground, in last week’s win over MIT.  WNEC is both strong and balanced, ranking third in the NEFC in total offense (323 yds/gm) and total defense (261 yds/gm).  Western New England finished 6-4 last year (5-2 Boyd) and was picked third in this year’s preseason poll.

CAREER SERIES: PSU has defeated WNEC in all 12 career meetings, including each of the past four seasons.  Plymouth State easily won all eight games in the 1980s, scoring at least 20 points and keeping WNEC to single-digit scoring in all eight.  When the series resumed in 2006, the Golden Bears led after three quarters before the Panthers pulled out a 19-18 win, and PSU has won by at least 17 point the last three years -- 49-29 in 2007 in Springfield, 40-20 in 2008 in Plymouth, and 38-21 last year in Springfield. 

PSU AT CURRIER FIELD: The Panthers have won their last two home games this season after having their 17-game home winning streak snapped earlier this year against 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 24-4 at home since 2005 and has an all-time home record of 143-55-3 for a .719 winning percentage. 

NEW ENGLAND POLL:  Amherst College (4-0) owns the top spot in this week’s New England Division III poll, receiving 10 of the 18 first-place votes, while Springfield College (5-1) is second, getting six top votes.  Williams (4-0) got the other two top votes and is ranked third, with Maine Maritime (5-1) and Plymouth State (6-1) fourth and fifth, respectively.  The bottom half of the poll includes Trinity (3-1), WNEC (6-1), Norwich (6-1), Endicott (5-2) and Framingham State (5-2). 

NEFC HONORS:  Senior LB Steve Campbell (Northborough, Mass.) made his first appearance of the season on the NEFC Honor Roll last week, making a team-high nine tackles, including a sack, in the win over Endicott.  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)

            Oct. 18        LB Steve Campbell (NEFC Honor Roll) 

NEFC LEADERS:  Several Panthers are among the NEFC statistical leaders. Sophomore RB Ty Long (Dover, N.H.) is tied for sixth in rushing (81.0 yds/gm) and seventh in all-purpose yards (105.9 per game); Senior LB Brian Castellucci (Derry, N.H.) is tied for 13th in tackles (7.6/gm); and senior DB Zach Parsons (Florence, Mass.) is tied for fourth with two forced fumbles and tied for fifth with three interceptions.  On special teams, sophomore Nick Provost (Stratham, N.H.) the fifth-leading punter in the NEFC with a 37.4 average; and junior Christian Mulcahy (Norwich, Conn.) ranks eighth in kick scoring (4-of-5 on field goals, 13-of-15 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.

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 two tough games remaining, a road contest next Saturday at Salve Regina followed by the final home game in two weeks against defending champion Curry.  Western New England plays a second straight road game next Saturday at Endicott and wraps up the regular season at home against UMass Dartmouth.  The Bogan Division winner will host the Boyd Division champion for the NEFC Championship on Saturday, Nov. 13.

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