DANBURY, CT - Senior quarterback David James (Stamford, CT) completed 30-of-39 passes for 294 yards and threw one touchdown to lead the Western Connecticut State University football team to a 26-23 come-from-behind victory over Plymouth State University on Senior Day at the Westside Athletic Complex.
The Colonials, which finished the regular season at 8-2 for the second straight season, wound up in second place in the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference at 6-2 and secured a spot in the New England Cup next Saturday. Their opponent, which will come from one of the other three Division III football-playing conferences in the region, the site and time of the NE Cup will be determined on Monday morning.
Although WestConn finished with a convincing, 419-223 advantage in total offense on Saturday, it was three very short runs by senior Devon Smith (Wethersfield, CT) that proved to be the difference. Smith rushed four times for a total of six yards, but scored three times, twice from a yard out and another from two yards away, from the "wildcat" formation. His final two burst across the goal line were the game's final two scores and brought the Colonials back from a 23-13 deficit, beginning with a two-yard run with 7:44 left in the third quarter. The game-winning one-yard run capped off an 18-play, 69 yard drive with 10:36 remaining in the game.
Plymouth State, which ends the season at 6-4 overall and 4-4 in the league, took an early lead when David Hamilton (West Deptford, NJ) scored on a nine-yard run with 4:42 left in the first stanza. Hamilton's TD run was set up after a bad snap over the head of senior punter Jordan D'Onofrio (Orange, CT) gave the Panthers the ball on the WestConn 12 yard line.
WestConn drew within a point when James connected with sophomore Will Daniels (Bethel, CT) for a nine-yard touchdown in the opening minutes of the second quarter. D'Onofrio's kick was blocked by Kayden Baillargeon (Derry, NH).
"It was a good team win today and we were able to fight back in the second half," said WestConn head coach Joe Loth. "In the second half, we did a great job with out four-minute offense to limit the amount of time they had the ball."
Daniels, the leading receiver in the MASCAC coming into Saturday's tilt, finished with a game-high seven catchers for 74 yards and the one score.
Chris Pascall (Pennsauken, NJ) followed with six catches for game-high 83 yards for the winners.
The Panthers went ahead by seven points, 13-7, when Nick Lancia (Bedford, NY) scored on a four yard run with 8:19 remaining in the second quarter. Dan Carey's (Plymouth, NH) extra point sailed left as both kickers battled a stiff wind all afternoon.
Hamilton led all players with 115 yards on 20 carries and scored a pair of touchdowns. With 40 seconds left in the first half, he scored on a one-yards run and gave the visitor's a 20-13 lead at intermission.
With the wind in his favor, Carey gave the PSU its biggest lead of the afternoon, 23-13, when he booted a season-high 34-yard field goal 4:30 into the second half.
Plymouth State sophomore quarterback Brett Lavanchy (Walpole, MA) completed 7-of-21 passes for 91 yards and was intercepted in the opening drive of the second half by junior linebacker Vincent Scancarello (Monroe, NY).
WestConn's ground attack was headed by Jashua Alvarez (Staten Island, NY) and Chad Blasky (Selden, NY) Alvarez finished with 14 carries for 65 yards while Blasky tallied 56 yards, all in the second half, on 17 carries. The sophomore and freshman's performance came at an opportune time as the Colonials' regulars have been hampered with injuries the last three games.
Defensively, Brian Tucker (Greenville, NY) led the Colonials with 10 tackles. Senior Jordan Fletcher (Manchester, CT) had a pair of quarterback sacks and wound up with three tackles for a loss in his final regular-season home game.
Matt Shea (Atkinson, NH) and Matt Tosone (Walpole, MA) combined for 29 tackles for the Panthers. Shea had 18 tackles including 13 primary tackles in the loss.
Smith and the Colonials provide all the scoring from there.