Plymouth State captures 1983 ECAC Division III Football Championship
(In honor of the 75th Anniversary of the ECAC, the conference is pleased to announce "Top Moments in ECAC History." Each Friday, the conference will honor a moment in ECAC history that stands out above the rest. Today marks the first "Top Moments in ECAC History," as we honor the first ever ECAC Division III Football Championship between Plymouth State and Massachusetts Maritime Academy.)
In 1982, the Plymouth State College football team finished with a perfect 10-0 record and captured the Lambert Bowl as the top Division III football team in the region. Despite the accolades and spotless record, the Panthers were not chosen by the NCAA selection committee for the Division III Football Playoffs. In the fall of 1983, the ECAC administered its first-ever Division III Football Championships, providing postseason opportunities for deserving football programs not selected for NCAA championship play. The first Division III Football Championship was the 1983 ECAC Division III New England Football Championship, featuring the co-champions of the New England Football Conference, the Plymouth State College Panthers and the Massachusetts Maritime Academy Buccaneers.
The ECAC title game was the second time the Panthers and Buccaneers squared off in 1983, with Massachusetts Maritime coming away with a 22-19 win at home during the regular season. Plymouth State jumped out to a 19-0 lead before Massachusetts Maritime rallied to score 22 unanswered points en route to the victory. Plymouth State again traveled to Buzzards Bay, Mass., this time the Panthers came out on the winning end, avenging their previous loss to the Buccaneers by a final score of 35-24.
Sophomore tailback Joe Dudek was the offensive standout for Plymouth State, rushing for a school-record 279 yards and three touchdowns. Dudek scored on the very first play from scrimmage, taking a handoff 61 yards around the right end to put the Panthers up 7-0. Plymouth State's John Posiviata scored on a 34-yard reverse three minutes later to extend the lead to 14-0 before Dudek capped off a 66-yard drive with his second touchdown of the first quarter, a 34-yard sweep with five minutes left to play in the opening frame. Senior defensive end Chris Parnell got the Buccaneers on the board in the waning moments of the first quarter, intercepting a John Pertzel pass and returning it 29 yards for the score.
After the two teams traded possessions, Plymouth State regained control of the ball on its own 20-yard line and time running out in the first half. The Panthers marched 80 yards downfield and into the end zone to take a 35-7 lead into the locker room. Dudek rushed for 60 yards on the drive, including a one-yard touchdown run to cap the first half scoring.
Massachusetts Maritime came out in the second half and shutout the potent Plymouth State offense. The 28-point deficit proved to be too large for the Buccaneer offense, as they were only able to score 17 second half points in the loss.
Dudek was named the ECAC Division III New England Player of the Year three times and finished his career as the NCAA Division III career rushing leader. He broke Walter Payton's career touchdown record and finished ninth in the 1985 Heisman Trophy balloting. In the 1985 ECAC title game, Dudek rushed for 265 yards in his final game for the Panthers, propelling him onto the cover of Sports Illustrated's Hesiman Issue alongside Auburn's Bo Jackson and Iowa's Chuck Long. He went on to play for the Denver Broncos in the National Football League.