GAME #9: Plymouth State College (5-3, FFC 3-2) at Kean University (0-7, NJAC 0-4)
Sat., Nov. 6, 1999, 2:00 p.m., Kean Alumni Stadium, Union, N.J.
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – With a third consecutive post-season berth still in sight, the Plymouth State College football team travels to Union, N.J. this weekend for a non-conference encounter against Kean University (pronounced “cane”).
The Panthers and Cougars will kick off at 2 p.m. Saturday at brand new Kean Alumni Stadium. PSC moved back into the ECAC Division III New England poll this week (seventh), and has a chance at an ECAC play-off berth with wins in its final two games. Kean is looking for its first victory of the season after winning only once in 1998.
Plymouth State, 5-3 overall and tied for second in the Freedom Football Conference at 3-2, has won its last two games under head coach Chris Rorke, a 17-12 non-conference decision at Bentley two weeks ago and a 42-0 slaughter of Coast Guard last Saturday at home. The Panthers continue to have a dominant defense, holding both opponents to negative rushing yardage, while the offense has come alive, led by the running of sophomore tailback Russ Massahos (Windham, NH).
Kean, 0-7 overall and 0-4 in the New Jersey Athletic Conference, plays a tough schedule under eighth-year head coach Brian Carlson, facing foes like RPI, Cortland, Rowan and The College of New Jersey. The Cougars are led by a pair of record-setting sophomores; tailback Tashawne Corbett ran for a KU record 1,311 yards last season, and quarterback Jay Sgaramella completed a school-record 114 passes in 1998 for 1,249 yards.
This will be the second time these two schools have met on the gridiron, with PSC capturing a 27-12 decision at Currier Field the first weekend in November a year ago. PSC got at least a touchdown from the offense, the defense, and special teams – former Panthers Joel Carey and Jeff Parker scoring for the offense, current sophomore Brain Chaplain (Hooksett, NH) returning an interception 35 yards for a TD for the defense, and Brent Bardellini taking a kickoff 85 yards into the end zone on special teams.
It has been a big week for Massahos, who rushed for a record six touchdowns and 189 yards on 13 carries against Coast Guard. He was named ECAC New England Division III and FFC Offensive Player of the Week Monday, and Wednesday was given the Coca Cola Gold Helmet Award winner for the College Division, a prestigious honor from the New England Football Writers Association.
FFC PICTURE: Western Connecticut has done the unthinkable, registering a remarkable 8-0 overall record and a 4-0 mark in the FFC and clinching the conference title and automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament before Halloween. The Colonials, who had never been 3-0 in a season before, are the first team in the nation to qualify in this first year of automatic bids. Plymouth State (5-3, 3-2), Springfield (3-5, 3-2) and WPI (4-3, 2-2) are battling for second place, all having lost to WCSU. Western is the sixth school to win or share the FFC title since the conference was formed in 1992, joining WPI (1992, 1993), Plymouth State (1994, 1995), Kings Point (1994), Springfield (1996, 1998) and Coast Guard (1996, 1997).
WEEKLY HONORS: Masshos was not the only Panther player honored after last Saturday’s mauling of Coast Guard. Freshman defensive tackle Nate Laita (Dover-Foxcroft, Maine) was selected FFC and ECAC New England Rookie of the Week for the second consecutive week after making seven tackles, five for lost yardage, recovering a fumble and knocking down a pass. Senior running back Eric Taylor (Saratoga Springs, NY), who replaced Massahos in the third quarter, was named to the FFC Honor Roll after registering his first career 100-yard game (11 carries, 102 yards, one catch, 21 yards). Sophomore Chris Kelliher (Goffstown, NH) was on the FFC Defensive Honor Roll for the third time this season after making seven tackles, one for lost yardage, and returning an interception 13 yards in Coast Guard territory.
ECAC NEW ENGLAND POLL: Plymouth State moved back into seventh in this week’s ECAC New England Poll. Undefeated teams WCSU (8-0), Bridgewater State (8-0), and Williams (6-0) are in the top three spots, followed by Mass. Maritime (7-1), followed by Salve Regina (6-2), Trinity (4-2), Plymouth State (5-3), Amherst (4-2), Nichols (5-2), and Wesleyan (4-2).
CLOSING IN ON 200: The program with the highest winning percentage among all NCAA Division III teams with at least 25 years on the gridiron, Plymouth State is closing in on victory No. 200. The Panthers go into the Kean game with a 30-year career record of 198-83-7 (.6997). The next school, entering the season, was Wisconsin-Lacrosse, which had a .6959 winning percentage in 74 years of football (456-188-40).
A LOOK AHEAD: The Panthers wraps up the regular season with a conference affair next Saturday (Nov. 13) at WPI (1 p.m.). Both teams could have a shot a second place in the FFC by winning that contest.