Panthers look to regroup during bye week
WESTFIELD, Mass. – Senior tailback Michael Mercadante (Wilbraham, Mass.) cracked the 100-yard rushing mark for the third time this season and Westfield State University's defense was close to perfect in shutting out Plymouth State University, 35-0, on Saturday afternoon at a rainy Alumni Field.
Mercadante toted the ball 25 times for 122 yards, and touchdown runs of 14 and 43 yards. He put the Owls ahead, 7-0 with a 14-yard run to cap the game's opening drive, as Westfield marched the ball 92 yards on 10 plays.
The Owls pushed the lead to 14-0 just a minute later, when the they capitalized on a Plymouth State fumble, which was recovered by Westfield senior defensive end Jonathan Lytle. Senior QB Steve Guercio (Gardner, Mass.) launched a 33-yard scoring strike to Scotty Nye (Uxbridge, Mass.) on the next play from scrimmage.
With the lead comfortably in hand, the Owls defense took over. First Westfield recorded a safety on a fourth down play as the snap was mishandled by punter Hunter Hawanczak (Commack, N.Y.) dribbled out of the back of the end zone. The Owls picked up another safety in the third quarter, forcing a fumble in the end zone.
Senior defensive end Marcus Pettigrew (Auburn, Mass.) led the defensive effort for Westfield with 10 tackles, two sacks, and four total tackles for losses. Senior linebackers Julon McCoy (Gardner, Mass.) and Troy Cutter (Lunenberg, Mass.) each had seven tackles.
Westfield stifled Plymouth's rushing game. The Panthers mustered just nine total yards rushing on 31 tries. The Owls limited Plymouth's passing attack to just 4-11 for 19 yards and an interception. For the game, Plymouth State had just one first down and 28 total yards.
Westfield posted 440 yards of total offense on the day. Ryan Wilder (Turners Falls, Mass.) gained 67 yards on the ground, and Colby Bostek (West Boylston, Mass.) added 58, most of which came on a fourth-down rush that he popped for 55 yards. Guercio had an efficient game despite the heavy rain, completing 10 of 16 passes for 175 yards and one TD.
Westfield wide receiver Sam Laurin (Chicopee, Mass.) posted a Gordie Lockbaum-like performance for the Owls. Having started at cornerback for the Owls first three games, Laurin moved to wide receiver during the bye week, caught four passes for 62 yards, kicked off for the Owls, and returned four punts for 46 yards, including a 34-yarder.
Freshman Jordan Brown ( Lynn, Mass.), making his first start at cornerback in place of Laurin, had his first collegiate interception, and returned a pair of kicks for 77 yards.
Westfield improves to 3-1, 2-0 in MASCAC. Westfield will travel to Framingham State next Saturday for a game that will be a battle between the league's only two unbeaten teams.
Plymouth falls to 1-4, 0-3 in the league and has their bye week next weekend.
(Courtesy of Westfield State Sports Information)
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