by Scott Miller
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – Senior wide receiver Joel Carey (South Pomfret, VT) caught a 29-yard touchdown pass from Zach Matthews (Sanford, ME) with 2:43 remaining Saturday to give Plymouth State College a thrilling 25-20 win over WPI at Currier Field.
PSC, which finishes the regular season at 7-3 overall and 4-2 in the Freedom Football Conference, awaits an ECAC play-off bid to be given out Sunday night. WPI concludes its season at 4-5 overall and 3-3 in the FFC.
“I’m leading a charmed life with our quarterback situation,” said PSC head coach Mike Kemp, referring to Matthews second-half performance. “Zach had been struggling so we decided to start Eric Rush (Hampton, NH) for the second week in-a-row. Eric did a good job for us but we felt we needed to generate some yards through the air and Zach did just that.”
WPI had a chance to win the game in the waning seconds when it had the ball on the Panther 10-yard line but PSC’s Jason Marcell (Stoughton, MA) broke up a pass in the end zone with no time on the clock.
“This was definitely a huge win,” said Carey, who had three receptions for 51 yards. “It was a bittersweet victory after a last second loss at their place last year.”
In a see-saw battle, the Panthers took a 19-13 lead with 5:32 left in the fourth quarter. Senior fullback Bryan Sinatro (West Hartford, CT) capped a 67-yard drive when he rumbled in from five yards out, breaking a 13-all 13 tie. Von Thiphasouk’s (Nashua, NH) extra-point attempt was blocked.
WPI came right back 40 seconds later to go ahead 20-19 when quarterback John Riccio (Southington, CT) hit Matt Surrette (Spencer, MA) with a 37-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline. That score was set up by a 52 yard kick-off return by Matt Seitz (Milford, MA).
On the ensuing WPI kick-off, Plymouth State’s Brent Bardellini (Milford, MA) returned the ball 42 yards to the Engineer 36, setting up Carey’s heroics.
“Joel Carey made a huge play for us,” said Kemp. “Today we honored our seniors and you like to see them make those types of plays in a big game.”
Plymouth State opened the scoring late in the first quarter when quarterback Eric Rush (Hampton, NH) hit Sam Carey (Hooksett, NH) with a 25 yard touchdown pass. . The Panthers got deep into WPI territory after Jared Lachapelle (Northbridge, MA) fumbled a Bob Maylone (Manchester, NH) punt at Engineer 19 yard line. After a holding penalty, Rush found Carey on a roll out giving the Panthers an early lead. Thiphasouk added the extra point for PSC.
WPI answered late in the second quarter when Nicholas Fluet (Leominster, MA) caught a 15 yard touchdown pass from Riccio. Joshua Morrison’s (Alstead, NH) extra point tied the score 7-7.
The Panthers regained the lead mid way through the third quarter when running back Jeff Parker (Norwich, NY) trotted in from five yards out for his ninth touchdown of the season. Thiphasouk’s kick was blocked, leaving PSC with a 13-7 lead.
Fluet tied the score, 13-13, late in the third quarter with a seven yard run. PSC again blocked the extra point attempt by Morrison keeping the score tied.
Plymouth State, which ran for 195 yards on the afternoon, was led by Russ Massahos (Windham, NH) and Parker, who had 91 and 65 yards respectively. Sinatro added 44 yards on just eight carries.
“One of our goals for the season was to get into the play-offs and win a game,” said Kemp. “Now it looks like we have that chance and fortunately we are playing our best football right now.”
WPI received a fine effort from All-American tight end Surrette who caught eight passes for 157 yards and one touchdown.