GAME #10: Plymouth State College (7-2, FFC 4-1) at WPI (3-6, FFC 1-4)
Sat., Nov. 15, 1997, 1:00 p.m., Alumni Field, Worcester, MA
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – Entering the final game of the regular season, the Plymouth State College football team is still alive for a play-off spot and a share of the Freedom Football Conference title.
The Panthers need a win in their last game to reach either of these goals, and that game is this Saturday (Nov. 15) at Alumni Field in Worcester, Mass., against FFC opponent WPI. PSC needs a win and some help to earn a share of the FFC crown, and although an NCAA bid is unlikely, it would appear an ECAC post-season bid is within reach.
PSC, 7-2 overall and 4-1 in the FFC, could share the FFC title only with a win at WPI and a win by Kings Point (4-1 FFC) Saturday at Coast Guard (5-0 FFC). That would create a three-way tie for the championship, with PSC, Kings Point and Coast Guard all at 5-1. Coast Guard can capture the title outright by beating Kings Point.
After getting knocked down and out of the NCAA play-off picture by Coast Guard, PSC rebounded last Saturday with a 42-0 trouncing at Curry College. The Panther offense splashed its way to 316 yards in the driving rain, while Curry managed only 64 yards against the PSC defense. The special teams got into the act, returning a punt for a touchdown, and the Panthers regained some confidence that disappeared after the Coast Guard outing.
The Panthers moved up to No. 2 in the ECAC New England Division III weekly poll behind Coast Guard. Although the ECAC play-off selection, to be announced next Monday (Nov. 17), would come from a different group of ECAC voters, the weekly poll is often a good indication of how the teams stack up.
WPI, which has dropped five of its last six after a 2-1 start, is trying to end its season on a winning note. The Engineers, 3-6 overall and 1-4 in the FFC, were throttled 44-0 last Saturday at Coast Guard. The week before, WPI picked up its only FFC victory with a 10-2 verdict over Western Connecticut.
“We’ve re-adjusted our goals after the Coast Guard loss,” said Panther head coach Mike Kemp. “We wanted to go out and beat Curry, which we did. Now we want to go out and beat WPI, and hopefully get an ECAC play-off berth, and win that too.”
Plymouth State and WPI have ended the season against each other since 1992, with WPI winning in ’92 and ’93 (for the FFC title) and PSC taking the last three (twice for FFC titles). The Panthers won at home last season, 31-3, and lead the all-time series, 4-2.
LAST WEEK: Senior tailback Jose Raymond rebounded from a sub-par performance against Coast Guard to register a career-best afternoon at Curry. He rushed 17 times for 146 yards and touchdowns from 32, 7 and 1 yards and was named to the ECAC and FFC Honor Rolls. Raymond is leading the conference in rushing with his 90 yards per game average, and is tied for second with 11 TDs. Sophomore PR/WR Brent Bardellini was named FFC Special Teams Player of the Week after returning two punts for 82 yards, including a 54-yarder for a touchdown, and catching two passes for 40 yards. Bardellini, who leads the league in punt return average (11.0), has returned two punts for TDs this season and five in his career. Linebackers Rocky Criscone and Sans Millbury led a Panther defense that allowed Curry just 64 yards. Criscone made six tackles and returned an interception 18 yards to make the FFC Honor Roll for the second straight week, and Millbury came off the bench to make six tackles, including a tackle for loss and PSC’s only sack, earning his first FFC honor.
STRANGE WEEK IN THE FFC: The average margin of victory in last Saturday’s four games involving the normally competitive FFC was a whopping 45.25 points Coast Guard, Plymouth State and Kings Point won in shutouts by 44-0, 42-0, and 36-0 scores, respectively, and Springfield outscored Norwich, 73-14.
TOP NOTCH DEFENSE: The Panther defense leads the FFC in three of the four defensive categories – scoring (10.7 pts/gm), rushing (87.1 yds/gm), and total defense (214.6 yds/gm). In last week’s NCAA Division III statistics, PSC was 11th in total defense and scoring defense, 31st in passing efficiency defense, and 27th in rushing defense.
AMONG THE FFC LEADERS: PSC is prominent among individual leaders of the FFC. CB Marc Turcotte has the conference lead (and tied for 9th in the NCAA) with six interceptions, QB Josh Norse is third in passing (109.7 rating) and first in total offense (180.7 yds/gm), which includes passing and rushing, and TB Jose Raymond is the leader in rushing (82.8 yds/gm) and third in scoring (7.3 pts/gm). PK Paul D’Ascoli (career 23-41 FG, 106-116 PAT) is the FFC’s third-highest scoring kicker (4.6 pts/gm), WR/KR Brent Bardellini appears among the FFC leaders in punt returns, kick returns, receiving yards, and all-purpose yards, and WR Charlie Schubert is on the list of top FFC receivers in both receptions (3.00/gm) and receiving yards (41.3/gm).
1997 ECAC New England Division III Poll
Team (1st place votes) Record Points
1. Coast Guard (13) 8-1 138
2. Plymouth State 7-2 95
3. Wesleyan 7-1 93
4. UMass Dartmouth 8-1 90
5. Amherst 7-1 111
6. Williams 6-1 64
7. Worcester State 7-2 69
8. Bridgewater State 6-3 26
9. Salve Regina 7-2 39
10. Trinity 5-3 13
Also Receiving Votes: Springfield (12)
HEAD COACH MIKE KEMP: Plymouth State is in Year Two under head coach Mike Kemp. A 1975 graduate of the University of Notre Dame, Kemp joined the PSC staff in ’96. It is his first head coaching position after serving as an assistant coach at several schools, most recently Cortland State. Kemp has guided PSC to an 12-6 record in his first two seasons.
PSC’S WEEKLY HONORS: Plymouth State is a regular name when it comes to weekly conference and regional honors. Here is a list of PSC’s weekly honorees:
Sept. 14 — Josh Norse, ECAC, FFC Honor Rolls; Brent Bardellini, FB Gazette (National), FFC Special Teams Player of the Week; John McLaughlin, FFC Honor Roll; Sept. 21 — Dave Gibson, FFC Honor Roll; Jose Raymond, FFC Honor Roll; Sept. 28 — Josh Norse, ECAC, FFC Honor Roll; Dave Gibson, FFC Honor Roll; Matt Botz, FFC Honor Roll; Oct. 5 — Paul D’Ascoli, ECAC Honor Roll, FFC Special Teams Player of the Week; Jose Raymond, FFC Rookie of the Week; Rocky Criscone, FFC Honor Roll; Oct. 12 – Dave Gibson, ECAC Honor Roll, FFC Defensive Player of the Week; Jose Raymond, FFC Honor Roll; Oct. 19 – Josh Norse, FFC Offensive Player of the Week; Dave Gibson, Jose Raymond, FFC Honor Roll; Oct. 26 – Kevin Hebert, ECAC/Budget New England Regional Defensive Player of the Week and FFC Co-Defensive Player of the Week; Jose Raymond, FFC Co-Rookie of the Week, ECAC Honor Roll; Nov. 2 – Rocky Criscone, FFC Honor Roll, Charlie Schubert, FFC Honor Roll; Nov. 9 – Brent Bardellini, FFC Special Teams Player of the Week; Jose Raymond, ECAC and FFC Honor Rolls; Rocky Criscone, FFC Honor Roll, Sans Millbury, FFC Honor Roll.
PSC AT CURRIER FIELD: Plymouth State suffered a rare defeat vs. Coast Guard at Currier Field, named after former PSC football coach Charles Currier. PSC has an all-time 103-31-3 overall home record for a .763 winning percentage. The Panthers are 4-1 this season at Currier Field, 7-2 under Mike Kemp (.778), 21-5 the last four years (.808), and 30-10-1 in the ‘90s (.753).
PANTHER FB HISTORY: Plymouth State entered 1997, its 28th season as a varsity program, as the winningest Division III college football program in the nation with an all-time winning percentage of .707 (W-179, L-72, T-7). Wisconsin-Lacrosse is second (.698 in 72 years), followed by St. Johns, MN (.678 in 86 years), Ithaca (.647 in 64 years), and Wittenberg (.639 in 103 years).