Panthers' impressive season comes to a close
BROCKPORT, N.Y. – The most successful Plymouth State University football season in a decade came to an end Saturday, as the College of Brockport knocked off the Panthers, 66-0, in the first round of the NCAA Division III Football Championship at Bob Boozer Field.
With the win the Golden Eagles improve to 11-0 and advance to the second round, while the Panthers' seven game winning streak comes to a close. Plymouth State finishes the season with a 9-2 mark.
The Golden Eagles took their opening drive into the red zone, but the Panther defense forced an incomplete pass on third down and Brockport had to settle for a 30-yard field goal.
Plymouth State wasn't able to move the ball during its first possession and a misplay on fourth down gave the Golden Eagles the ball at the PSU 13. The defense stood tall, however, and junior Grant McGregor (Burlington, Conn.) and freshman Zac Garside (Londonderry, N.H.) combined to make a key fourth down stop to give the ball back to the offense.
A swarming Brockport defense forced a three-and-out and the offense marched 58 yards in seven plays with sophomore quarterback Joe Germinerio (Wynantskill, N.Y.) scoring on a four-yard keeper to up the lead to 10-0.
PSU started to move the ball in its next possession. Junior Zack Edwards (Brookfield, Mass.) hit senior Chris Kelly (Belmont, Mass.) for a nine-yard gain on first down. Later on a third-and-long, Edwards connected with junior Mitch Banuskevich (Milford, N.H.) on a screen play for a 17-yard gain, but the play was called back due to a penalty and following an incomplete pass Plymouth was forced to punt.
On third-and-12 from midfield, Germinerio hit senior Jerry Thompson (Yonkers, N.Y.) over the middle and Thompson outran the defense for a 49-yard touchdown. On the ensuing PSU drive, senior Jake O'Connell (Rochester, N.Y.) picked off an Edwards pass and returned it 45 yards for a score to increase the lead to 24-0.
The Golden Eagles added two more long touchdown passes to close out the first half. Germinerio connected on passes of 37 and 43-yards to push the lead to 38-0 at the intermission and Brockport controlled the second half to advance to the second round.
Freshman Jordan Suckow (Discovery Bay, Calif.) led the Panthers with nine yards on the ground, while Banuskevich finished with eight yards on eight carries against the second best rushing defense in the country (26.9 yards/game).
Edwards finished 11-of-28 for 109 yards through the air, with sophomore Jacob Szulc (Concord, N.H.) returning to the lineup to catch two balls for a team-high 37 yards. Senior Colin Leddy (Natick, Mass.) and Kelly both had three catches for 26 and 23 yards respectively. Sophomore Matt Shea (Windham, N.H.) led the defense with 10 tackles, including eight solo, while graduate student Zach Ziemba (Manchester, N.H.) added 7.5 (six solo).
The loss marks the final game for seniors Elijah Johnson (Windsor, Conn.), Joe Ceraldi (Cranston, R.I.), Matt Adamik (Lee Center, N.Y.), Blair Zentek (Simsbury, Conn.), Jon Young (Londonderry, N.H.), Kwaku Owusu (Manchester, N.H.), Jack Howarth (Portsmouth, N.H.), Andy Reardon (Rockland, Mass.), Pat Engdahl (Sutton, Mass.), Joe Esposito (Hackettstown, N.J.), Leddy and Kelly, as well as Ziemba.
The group played a huge role in transforming a team that finished 1-9 in 2014 into the 9-2, Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) champions and NCAA Tournament participants they became. The 9-2 mark is the best finish since the 2008 team ended 10-2.
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