PSU Football drops season opener at Castleton in overtime

PSU Football drops season opener at Castleton in overtime

Giles' last-minute field goal forces extra session

            CASTLETON, Vt. – Junior Matt Rufus rushed for 134 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a two-yard TD on  Castleton State College's first possession of overtime, and the Spartans held on for a dramatic 20-13 victory over Plymouth State University  in the season opener for both schools at Spartan Stadium on a soggy Saturday afternoon.

            In the fourth overtime game in PSU history and the first for Castleton, the Spartans received the ball first at the 25-yard line. Rafus pushed the Spartans to the 13-yard line with a pair of hard runs for the first down; three plays later quarterback Tyler Higley connected with Soren Pelz-Walsh down to the two-yard line. Rafus then went over the left side for the score to put Castleton in front 20-13.

            On Plymouth's first play of overtime Eric Mimnaugh stopped running back Mark Hennessy (Westford, Mass.) for just a two-yard gain and then followed it up with an interception to propel the Spartans to victory.

            Rafus was a workhorse for Castleton all day long, carrying the ball 30 times for 134 yards. Mimnaugh, meanwhile, finished with eight tackles to lead the defensive backfield as Plymouth State recorded just 135 yards passing on 19 attempts.

            Hennessy rushed for 99 yards and a touchdown for PSU, a 15-yard burst in the third quarter that tied the game at 10-10. The senior also tossed a 51-yard pass late in the fourth quarter to set up the game-tying field goal.  Senior Rob Giles (Derry, N.H.) kicked two field goals for PSU, including a clutch 25-yarder with 51 seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime.

            Senior quarterback Jake Tyler (Maynard, Mass.) completed six of eight passes for 47 yards. Junior RJ Kasper (Killingworth, Conn.) caught four passes for 69 yards to help the offense.

            The Spartans, led by Rafus, rushed for 196 yards on the afternoon while also throwing the ball 31 times for 179 yards with no interceptions. Higley finished the day 19-for-31 for 179 yards. His primary target on the afternoon was Kevin Alberque, who had nine catches for 80 yards and 208 all-purpose yards as he served as the team's primary kick and punt returner. Pelz-Walsh was second on the team with four catches for 50 yards.

            Both teams struggled on offense early, though a 15-yard punt return by Alberque gave Castleton the ball at its own 45. The Spartans used a steady dose of Rafus, along with a 25-yard run on the ground from Corey Brimmer to get inside the ten-yard line. Two plays later Rafus took it to the house for his first career touchdown, with 6:34 left in the first.

            The Spartan defense kept the Panthers at bay and eventually added to their lead midway through second. Castleton put together a 15-play drive to get to the one-yard line. However, a fumble by Higley on third down pushed them back out to the six. Bobby Lineberger put home the 23-yard field goal to make it 10-0.

            Plymouth State finally got its offense going in the final minute of the half and marched down to the 11-yard line before getting a field goal as time expired to make it 10-3 going into the half.

            In the second half the Panthers came out strong on their second drive. Starting on their own 18-yard line, they used their rushing attack to go down the field. Hennessy finished off the drive with 15-yard score through the left side to tie the game 10-10 with 6:59 left.

            Neither team scored again until the final minutes of the contest. Starting at their own 28 with 6:17 remaining, the Spartans used six consecutive rushes to advance to the PSU 29-yard line. Castleton then advanced to the Panther 13-yard line, before a 7-yard loss on third down pushed the team back to the 20-yard line. Lineberger then came through with a 37-yard field goal that just cleared the crossbar to give the Spartans a 13-10 advantage with 1:58 left.

            The Panthers went into their two-minute offense and on a second and two from their 30, Hennessy looked like he was taking the sweep to the right side before lofting a pass to Kasper. The play went for 51 yards to the Castleton 11-yard line. PSU wouldn't get any closer than the eight-yard line and Giles connected on a 25-yard field goal to tie it 13-13 with 51 seconds left.

            Castleton got down to the Plymouth 28-yard line with 12 seconds remaining but a 45-yard field goal attempt went short. The Panthers took a knee to force overtime and set up the late-game drama.

            The win was the first career victory for head coach Castleton Tony Volpone. The 13 points is the fewest points allowed by the Castleton defense since a 45-13 victory over Becker on Oct. 13, 2012.

            PSU returns home next week to host Mount Ida in the home opener at Currier Field (12 noon). Castleton is idle next week before returning to action on Sept. 20 when they host RPI.

(Courtesy of Castleton Sports Information)

-- 30 --