WALTHAM, Mass. – Sophomore Russ Massahos (Windham, NH) scored a pair of touchdowns in the final two minutes of the first half Saturday, and the Plymouth State College football team held on to spoil Bentley College’s Homecoming with a 17-12 non-conference victory at Bentley Field.
Massahos scored on a four-yard run with 1:28 to play in the second quarter to give PSC its first lead, 10-6. Massahos then caught a 15-yard TD pass from freshman Matt Simpson (Auburn, Maine) with 12 second left in the half to put PSC up 17-6.
The game featured a solid performance from the Panther defense, which limited Bentley’s ground game to a minus five yards on 34 attempts. The Falcons were forced to go to the air, with two quarterbacks combining for 28 completions on 59 attempts for 336 yards.
Plymouth State moves back over the .500 mark to 4-3 overall, while Bentley drops to 2-6. The career series between these two schools is now tied at 1-1, as PSC avenged last season’s 30-19 setback to Bentley at Currier Field.
“Today was a return to form for our defense,” said PSC head coach Chris Rorke. “Every time we needed a big play, we got one. Jason Marcell (Stoughton, Mass.) played a tremendous game today. He’s been the most consistent defensive back this year.”
Marcell backboned a Panther defense that gave Bentley quarterback Ted Larkin trouble all day. Marcell finished with five tackles, an interception, a forced fumble and three pass break-ups.
Bentley got on the board first midway through the first quarter on a 33-yard field goal by Eric Boutwell. The Falcons had driven 54 yards on 14 plays to set up the score following a blocked field goal attempt by PSC’s Jesse Elderkin (Concord, NH).
The hosts went ahead 6-0 early in the second quarter on Boutwell’s 36 yard field goal, a boot that hit the cross bar and bounced over.
The ensuing kickoff was returned 27 yards by Eric Taylor (Saratoga Springs, NY) into Bentley territory. Several plays later, PSC got on the scoreboard with a career-best 43-yard field goal by sophomore Todd Waldrop (Smithfield, RI).
It looked like it would be 6-3 at the half, but Bentley back-up quarterback Ryan Fryar was sacked by PSC freshman Nate Laita (Dover-Foxcroft, Maine) deep in his own territory. Fryar fumbled on the play, and PSC’s Clint Medas (Taunton, Mass.) recovered at Bentley’s 19 yard line. Massahos scored four plays later, but not before Simpson completed a key 22-yard completion to Shaun Spaulding (Everett, Mass.) to the four yard line.
The Panther defense held Bentley before time ran out in the half, and John McLaughlin (East Bridgewater, Mass.) returned a punt 29 yards (to the Bentley 28) with less than a minute remaining to set up Massahos’ second score that put PSC up 17-6 at the half.
The Falcons cut the margin to 17-12 early in the fourth quarter when Mike Lundell caught a 27-yard TD pass from Larkin. The two-point conversion failed, and PSC held onto its five-point lead.
Bentley had two more chances to retake the lead, but the Panther defense contained the Falcons. The game wasn’t decided until the final play, however, when Larkin’s pass into the end zone went off the hands of receiver Rob Haddad.
“We hung together well today, and I had a feeling I was going to make some big plays” said Marcell. “Our focus was to not let them into the end zone, especially in the fourth quarter. Time was one our side.”
“Our defense was on the field almost the entire fourth quarter,” added Rorke, “and we showed a lot of character by not letting them get into the end zone on those last two drives.”
Massahos finished with 97 yards rushing and 19 yards receiving “Today was cold and dry, and I made a conscious effort to hold onto the ball because I didn’t want to fumble,” said Massahos. “This was a huge win for us. We’re still playing with a lot of pride and we’d like to gain some momentum going into these last three games.”
The Panthers return to Freedom Football Conference next Saturday in the last home game of the season against Coast Guard (12 p.m.) at Currier Field.