Banuskevich rushes for career-high 168 yards in MASCAC win
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – Junior Mitch Banuskevich (Milford, N.H.) accounted for 208 all-purpose yards to lead Plymouth State University past Bridgewater State University, 17-7, in a Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) football game at Currier Field on Scouts Day.
The Panther defense allowed just a single touchdown and forced three turnovers, including a pair of interceptions by sophomore Prince Gbaley (Manchester, N.H.), to remain unbeaten at home. PSU improves to 5-1 overall (3-1 MASCAC), while the Bears fall to 1-5 and 1-3 in league play.
PSU got off to a quick start, scoring on its opening drive. The Panther offense moved the ball 65 yards in 11 plays, with Banuskevich accounting for all but four yards on the drive. Junior quarterback Zack Edwards (Brookfield, Mass.) connected with Banuskevich for a 12-yard touchdown and the point after from freshman Jeremy Martin (Charlton, Mass.) gave the hosts an early 7-0 lead.
The Bridgewater offense drove the ball well in its opening drive as well. Senior running back Alex McLaughlin (Littleton, Mass.) opened the drive with a 13-yard run, and later sophomore quarterback Stefano D'Emilia (Bridgewater, Mass.) connected with junior Jack Lavanchy (Walpole, Mass.) for a 14-yard hook up to get into PSU territory. BSU pushed the ball down to the Panthers' 19-yard line, but the drive stalled there as a pair of incompletions forced a turnover on downs.
Bridgewater got the ball back early in the second quarter when senior Charles McCarthy (North Reading, Mass.) intercepted an Edwards pass. The Bears marched down the field and a pass interference penalty gave BSU the ball at the Plymouth two-yard line. The defense held and it looked like they would come away unscathed when McLaughlin lost the football, but senior Malik Garrett (Dorchester, Mass.) jumped on the loose ball in the end zone to even the game at 7-7.
Neither offense could get much going over the next few possessions. With 3:04 remaining in the half the Bears pushed the ball up field. Gbaley came away with an interception on a deep throw from D'Emilia and the PSU offense took over with just over a minute left in the half. The Panthers moved the ball downfield and into BSU territory, but were unable to get a score before time expired.
McLaughlin fumbled on the first play of the second half and freshman Zac Garside (Londonderry, N.H.) recovered at the BSU 23-yard line, giving the Panthers excellent starting field position. The offense struggled to move the ball, though, and PSU's field goal attempt went wide right.
The Panthers retook the lead late in the third quarter when Gbaley returned a BSU punt 35 yards, untouched, for a touchdown. Early in the fourth quarter, Martin capped a six play, 47-yard drive with a 25-yard field goal to put the hosts up 17-7.
Bridgewater State looked poised for another score midway through the fourth quarter when the visitors recovered an Edwards fumble at the PSU 34. A pair of completions moved the ball to the PSU 15, but Gbaley came up with his second interception of the day to stop the drive and the Panther ground game was able to chew up the clock as the Panthers held on for the win.
|Local scouts join Pemi for a picture at midfield during halftime.|
Prior to the game roughly two dozen local Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts welcomed the Panthers for the coin toss with a high-five tunnel, then remained on the field to hold the flag for the National Anthem. They returned to the field for photos with PSU mascot, Pemi the Panther, at halftime and spent time with the football team following the game.
Banuskevich finished the day with 168 yards rushing and 40 yards receiving, along with the one touchdown. The 168 yards on the ground set a new career-high, narrowly surpassing the 167 yards he rushed for last November in a win over Massachusetts Maritime. It was the second straight 100-yard rushing game for the junior.
Edwards ended 11-of-21 for 111 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Sophomore Jacob Szulc (Concord, N.H.) had a pair of catches for 56 yards, but was kept out of the end zone for the first time this season.
For the Bears, McLaughlin finished with 46 yards on the ground, giving him 3,033 for his career. He becomes just the third player in program history to eclipse the 3,000-yard rushing barrier. D'Emilia finished 22-of-43 for 173 yards and the two interceptions, while his top target, Lavanchy, finished with 10 catches for 82 yards. Lavanchy moved into sixth place on the Bears' all-time receptions list and now has 91 catches in just two seasons with the Bears.
Senior Tyler Salois (North Andover, Mass.) led all players with 12 tackles, with McCarthy finishing with 11 for the Bears. Neither team recorded a sack.
The Panthers are at home again next weekend when they host Framingham State University in a key MASCAC battle. Framingham is currently 3-0 in the MASCAC, with PSU just a half game behind (3-1). Kick-off is set for 1:00 p.m. Bridgewater State also remains in MASCAC play, traveling to UMass Dartmouth for a Friday night game under the lights (7:00 p.m.).
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