SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Sophomore quarterback Kevin Cahill (New York Mills, NY) rushed 26 times for 176 yards and three touchdowns Saturday to lead Springfield College to a 40-7 Freedom Football Conference victory over Plymouth State College at Benedum Field.
Springfield fullback Mike Tanner (Dolgeville, NY) added to the potent offensive attack for the Pride, rushing 26 times for 149 yards and one touchdown. Springfield, which ran up 571 yards of total offense, including 481 on the ground, improves to 6-0 overall and 4-0 in the FFC. The Pride should remain #1 this week in both the ECAC New England and NCAA East Region polls.
Plymouth State made a game of it in the first half, leading 7-6 after one quarter and trailing only 12-7 at the break. But the Pride wore down the Panther defense, and ran away in the second half. PSC drops its second straight FFC encounter and falls to 4-2 overall and 2-2 in the FFC.
“Because we were unable to generate any offense, our defense was on the field way too long,” said PSC head coach Mike Kemp, who watched Springfield run 89 plays from scrimmage compared to 53 for his team. “You just can’t leave the defense out there that long. They’ll chew you up.”
After gaining 117 yards in the first half, Plymouth State managed just 37 total yards in the second half. Springfield, meanwhile, piled up 321 yards after halftime.
“Their defensive front dominated our offensive line,” said Kemp, “and we were unable to get the ball to our skill kids. We’re young up front, and they took advantage.”
“I think our offense begins to wear them down in the second half,” said Springfield coach Mike DeLong. “Our quarterback is used to reading the defense, and he gets better reads in the second half, after seeing what they’re doing.”
Springfield took a 6-0 lead on the first possession of the game. The Pride, with a wishbone formation, used rushing plays on every snap of the drive until the one that counted, when Cahill found halfback Demetrius Dunn (Brick, NJ) in the left corner of the end zone on an option pass for a 22-yard score. PSC blocked the extra point kick, leaving Springfield with a six point advantage.
The Panthers answered with a 12-play scoring drive to take the lead. Sophomore RB Jeff Parker (Norwich, NY) capped the 65-yard drive with a four-yard burst up the middle, Parker’s seventh TD of the season. A key play on the drive was a successful fourth down conversion when QB Zach Matthews (Sanford, ME) hit Sam Carey (Hooksett, NH) on a six-yard gain, setting up first-and-goal.
Sophomore Corey Skillin (Norwich, NY) then put PSC ahead 7-6 by kicking the extra point, the third Panther to convert a PAT kick this season.
Springfield retook the lead in the second quarter on a three-yard burst by Tanner. The Pride tried to make it a seven-point advantage, but the conversion pass failed and Springfield led by only five, 12-7.
It looked like Springfield was set to score again but the Pride fumbled deep in Panther territory with less than three minutes left in the half and PSC’s Leo Turner (Millbury, MA) recovered. The Panthers could not capitalize, and the teams went to the locker room with the Pride owning just a 12-7 lead despite a 250-117 advantage in total offense.
The Pride added to its lead with TDs on its first two possessions of the second half, again using ball-control offense. Cahill scored both on runs of three and one yards, both followed extended drives by the Pride, and Springfield took a 26-7 advantage into the fourth quarter.
The home team removed all doubt in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter with yet another scoring drive. Cahill went into the end zone from five yards out, but much of the work on the drive was done by Tanner.
The PSC defense was worn down by the Springfield wishbone offense, and it showed in the final quarter. By the time the Springfield back-ups were in the game, the Panthers had little left in the tank. Reserve QB Connell Clark (Springfield, MA) scored on a 10-yard keeper for the 40-7 final.
The Panthers return home for the first time in a month next Saturday (Oct. 24) when they host Bentley College at 12 noon (WMUR-TV).
“This loss takes us out of the conference championship,” said Kemp. “But I told the team after the game, if we win our next four games, starting next week, we can still go to the post-season. That would still be a very respectable season. It certainly won’t be easy, but it is within our reach.”