PLYMOUTH, N.H. – A pair of former high school teammates, junior Jeff Mack (Milford, N.H./Milford) and sophomore John DeMarco (Milford, N.H./Milford), combined to rush for 161 yards and three touchdowns Saturday afternoon to lead Plymouth State University to a 27-13 victory over the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth in a New England Football Conference Boyd Division game at Currier Field.
Mack, DeMarco and senior quarterback Tye Seastedt (Danville, N.H./Timberlane) led a Panther running game that gained 234 of PSU’s 243 yards of total offense. Mack rushed for 86 yards on 21 carries and a seven-yard TD run in the second quarter, DeMarco gained 75 yards on 22 carries with two touchdowns (from one and two yards out), and Seastedt rushed for 63 yards on 17 carries.
The Panthers, who had possession of the ball for more than 37 minutes, ran 64 of their 70 plays on the ground. Seastedt was 1-for-6 passing for nine yards and two interceptions, all in the first half.
UMD took the opening possession and drove 60 yards on six plays, capping the drive with a two-yard TD burst by junior J.T. Harold (North Andover, Mass.) PSU responded with a 15-play, 65-yard drive, but came up empty on fourth-and-one at the UMD three yard-line.
“We’ve been in that situation before,” said PSU head coach Paul Castonia. “We needed to respond to early adversity and we did. We talked all week about not hanging our heads when something goes wrong, and today that paid off.”
The Panther defense held the Corsairs on the ensuing possession, and got outstanding field position when the UMD punt was blocked by sophomore Andrew Zambrano (Sandown, N.H./ Timberlane) and PSU recovered at the UMD three yard-line. Two plays later, DeMarco scored to make it 7-7.
“Special teams played a big role in our last two games against them (UMD),” said Castonia. “Today we were able to create favorable field condition with our special teams.”
Plymouth State took the lead in the second quarter after a 14-play, 70-yard drive. Mack capped the drive with a seven-yard jaunt, and the extra point attempt failed, giving the Panthers a 13-7 lead at halftime.
The Corsairs tied the game midway through the third quarter thanks to some special teams play of their own. A UMD punt backed PSU up inside its own 10-yard line, and a poor Panther boot gave the Corsairs the ball at the PSU 15-yard line. Four plays later, sophomore Aaron Russo (Johnston, R.I.) scored for UMD to make it a 13-13 contest.
The Panthers produced another long, time-consuming drive late in the third and early in the fourth quarter, and took a 20-13 lead with 12 minutes remaining on DeMarco’s second TD of the day. PSU sealed the win with less than six minutes to play when senior Tim Butler (Concord, Mass.) intercepted a pass and returned it 29 yards for the game-clinching score.
“We’ve been working on that move for four years with him,” said Castonia of Butler. “That gave us a relief because we had controlled the ball most of the game, and that sealed it. We finally put four quarters together.”
The PSU defense held the Corsairs to 191 yards of offense. Senior Matt Whelan (Merrimack, N.H.) had five tackles and two pass break-ups, and senior Dan Fallon (Manchester, N.H./Central) made four tackles and an interception.
Sophomore Rich Braley (Wareham, Mass.), freshman Chris Ciesluk (Taunton, Mass.) and senior Eric Meza (Leominster, Mass.) all finished with double digits in tackles for the visitors, Braley with 12, Ciesluk with 11 and Meza with 10. Harold finished with 63 yards rushing and a touchdown to lead the Corsair offense.
PSU, 1-2 overall and 1-0 in the NEFC, is home again next Saturday for and NEFC contest against Western New England College (1:00 p.m., Homecoming and Family Weekend). UMD, 1-2 overall and 0-1 in the NEFC, returns home to host MIT next Saturday (12:00 p.m.)
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