GAME #2: Plymouth State College (1-0-0) at SUNY College at Brockport (1-0-0)
Sat., Sept. 18, 1999, 1:30 p.m., Special Olympics Stadium. Brockport, NY
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – The 1999 season opened for the Plymouth State College football team with an impressive victory over Salve Regina last Saturday, and now the Panthers get their first road test of the season in Western New York.
The Panthers will battle the Golden Eagles of SUNY Brockport at 1:30 p.m. this Saturday in a non-conference encounter. The two schools have met the last two seasons, with each team winning on its home field; Brockport pulled out a 10-9 decision in 1997, and PSC returned the favor last season, 21-16.
Plymouth State gained a lot of confidence and respect with the 16-7 verdict over Salve, a team that had mauled the Panthers 36-6 in last season’s ECAC Northeast Championship game. The Panthers erased some bad memories and handed their new leader Chris Rorke a victory in his head coaching debut.
Voters around New England also took notice, and the Panthers received the top ranking in this week’s ECAC Division III New England poll.
The Panthers used several defensive stands in the second half and some big plays on offense and special teams vs. Salve. The Seahawks started three drives deep in Panther territory, and twice got inside the five yard line, but came away with no points. The special teams registered a field goal and a blocked punt by Colt Meredith (Saugus, Mass.) that accounted for a John McLaughlin (East Bridgwater, Mass.) touchdown, and the offense had two pass plays of more than 50 yards, including a third-quarter strike from Justin Connors (Andover, MA) to Charlie Schubert (Manchester, NH) that went for a score.
Brockport is also off to a strong start in 1999 under fifth-year coach Rocco Salomone. The Golden Eagles, who finished 3-6 last season, scored the most points in a game in five years last Saturday at home in a 48-21 rout of New Jersey City University.
PSC VS. NY: Plymouth State has played 10 different schools from the Empire State, and has posted a combined record of 11-12, including 1-1 vs. Brockport State. PSC’s record vs. the others: Albany State (0-1); Alfred (0-1); Buffalo State (0-1); Cortland State (0-1); Ithaca (1-1); Plattsburgh State (3-1); Stony Brook (4-0); Union (0-3); Kings Point (2-2).
WEEKLY FFC HONORS: PSC had been a regular when it comes to weekly honors from the Freedom Football Conference, and this season has started out no differently. Sophomore QB Justin Connors (Andover, Mass.) was named FFC Rookie of the Week after completing 10 of 22 passes for 175 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions in his collegiate debut.
RUNNING GAME: Senior Dan DeMuth (LeMars, Iowa) and sophomore Russ Massahos (Windham, NH) turned in respectable performances as PSC’s new starting backfield. DeMuth, a linebacker turned fullback, carried the ball three times and caught three passes for 29 yards, and Massahos, a part-time starter last year, carried 24 times for 98 yards.
GREEN WALL: Known over the years for a solid defense, PSC’s Green Wall was alive and well in Saturday’s game. The Panthers turned in a group effort, with several players making big plays. Sans Milbury (Danvers, Mass.) led the team with 14 tackles, and Colt Meredith (Saugus, Mass.) was outstanding with 11 tackles (one for lost yardage), two pass breakups, and a blocked punt that was returned for a PSC score. Sophomore Chris Kelliher (Goffstown, NH) made 10 tackles, including a sack, and Jason Marcell (Stoughton, Mass.) registered five tackles, two pass breakups, and one interception.
THE HEAD COACH: A 1989 graduate of Dartmouth, PSC head coach Chris Rorke joined the Panther staff last summer from Illinois Wesleyan, where he spent the past five seasons as an assistant. A native of Andover, Mass., Rorke was an assistant at Georgia Tech for two years, including the national championship season of 1990, and returned to his alma mater as an assistant coach from 1991-94 before moving to Illinois Wesleyan in 1994.
TEAM CAPTAINS: Plymouth State has elected a pair of seniors to serve as team captains in ’98: fullback Dan DeMuth of LeMars, Iowa, and safety Colt Meredith of Saugus, Mass.
PRE-SEASON HONORS: Two Plymouth State players earned pre-season All-America honors by usafootball.com — senior safety Colt Meredith (Saugus, MA) and junior center Chris Belmont (Campton, NH). Both players earned All-FFC, All-New England and All-East Region honors last fall.
A LOOK AT THE PANTHERS: PSC is coming off back-to-back ECAC Championship appearances the last two seasons, and return 25 veterans from last year’s varsity squad. The Panthers finished the 1998 regular season with a 7-3 overall record, and tied for second in the Freedom Football Conference with a 4-2 mark. The Green Wall defense returns eight starters from last year’s squad, while the offense has six players with starting experience.
PSC AT CURRIER FIELD: Plymouth State has had tremendous success over the years at Currier Field. PSC has an all-time home record of 108-32-3 for a .766 winning percentage. The Panthers are 26-6 at home the last five years, and 35-11-1 in the ‘90s.
ALL-TIME SUCCESS: The Panthers enter the 1999 season as the winningest Division III football program in the NCAA with at least 25 years on the gridiron. PSC has an all-time winning percentage of .702 with an overall record of 193-80-7, just ahead of Wisconsin-Lacrosse, which has a .696 winning percentage in 74 years of football (456-188-40).
FFC PRE-SEASON POLL: Defending Freedom Football Conference champion Springfield was picked to repeat its title in the annual FFC pre-season coaches poll. Kings Point edged out Plymouth State for second, with the Panthers finishing third and followed in order by Western Connecticut, Norwich, WPI, and Coast Guard.
A LOOK AHEAD: PSC opens the quest for a Freedom Football Conference championship next Saturday (Sept. 25) at Norwich University, followed by three consecutive home games against the meat of the FFC schedule: Western Connecticut, Kings Point and Springfield.