Defense, special teams shine Panthers' in fifth straight win
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – In its fifth straight victory, Plymouth State University put up 14 points on special teams and turnovers to post a 40-14 win at Massachusetts Maritime Academy on Saturday afternoon.
Plymouth State (7-1, 5-1 MASCAC) stayed atop the conference with the win, while Mass. Maritime (1-6, 0-5 MASCAC) is still looking for its first conference win of the year.
The Panthers started off their opening drive taking up over seven minutes on 11 plays. In a drive owned by juniors Zack Edwards (Brookfield, Mass.) and Mitch Banuskevich (Milford, N.H.), the Buccaneer defense made a big stop on their own 28-yard line. Defensive back Alex Ruddy (Mansfield, Mass.) jumped in front of an Edwards pass, and the interception set Mass. Maritime up for its first possession.
After back-to-back punts, Plymouth struck the scoreboard first. Edwards completed two passes before hooking up with senior Colin Leddy (Natick, Mass.) for a game-long 45-yard touchdown reception.
Plymouth stopped the Buccaneers in their ensuing drive and, after punting the ball back, the Panthers recovered a fumble on the Mass. Maritime 19. Graduate student Zach Ziemba Manchester, N.H.) jumped on the loose ball, and the Panthers converted the turnover into six points after a one-yard quarterback keeper by Edwards.
Both teams stalled offensively until the last three minutes of the half. PSU, known for its defense and special teams, extended its lead on a blocked Buccaneer punt. Junior Brad Rhodes (Epsom, N.H.) recovered the blocked punt, and waltzed in from 25 yards out to give the visiting team a 20-0 lead entering halftime.
Massachusetts Maritime scored both touchdowns in the third quarter, starting what seemed to be a big comeback. After a nine play, 66-yard drive, Chris Haggerty (Cohassett, Mass.) found Derek Stegman (Dover, N.H.) for a one-yard touchdown reception.
After a three and out, Plymouth was able to pin the Buccaneers inside their own six-yard line. In the best drive of the afternoon, the home team marched 94 yards on 12 plays before Matt Long (Weymouth, Mass.) punched in the second score from a yard out.
Entering the fourth quarter, the Panthers led by just six points. Their first drive into the final frame doubled their lead, as nine plays and 64 yards resulted in a Banuskevich touchdown from a yard away.
After forcing the Buccaneers to punt, Plymouth scored again on a similar drive; this time, sophomore David Hamilton (Westville, N.J.) punched in the score.
With three minutes left in the game, the Buccaneers had one last scoring opportunity halted by the PSU defense. Sophomore Prince Gbaley (Manchester, N.H.) intercepted a pass and ran it in from 56 yards out to account for the final 40-14 score.
Edwards finished the day completing 12-of-21 passes for 135 yards. Leddy led the receiving core with 63 yards on three catches, including the touchdown, while Banuskevich ran for 75 yards while pulling in two catches for 22 yards.
Haggarty had a solid day in the pocket for the Buccaneers, completing 17-of-24 pass attempts for 181 yards, while rushing for 59 more. Paul Sances (Middleboro, Mass.) pulled in eight receptions for 82 yards, and Richie Phillips (Onset, Mass.) led the running core with 68 yards.
Plymouth State returns home next Saturday for Senior Day. The Panthers will take on Westfield State at 1:00 p.m. at Currier Field.
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