Maine Maritime wins NEFC on Hail Mary as time expires
Senior wide receiver Alex Coulombe caught a deflected pass in the end zone as time expired, lifting Maine Maritime to a 48-42 win over Curry in the New England Football Conference Championship Game. With the victory, the Mariners (9-1) will make their first-ever appearance in the NCAA Division III Tournament, having secured the league's automatic bid.
With the score tied 42-42 and 32 seconds remaining in regulation, Maine Maritime began its final drive at its own 40 yard line. On a 4th-and-1 from the Mariner 49, Curry (8-3) was called for a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty, which gave the visitors a first down on the Colonels' 36. On the next play, senior quarterback Tyler Angell threw to the end zone where his pass was deflected by Curry junior free safety Bobby Driscoll but then caught by Coulombe for the winning score.
The Colonels dominated play early in the contest, building leads of 14-0 and 21-6. Curry got three rushing touchdowns in the first half: a 1-yard run by senior back Jamaal Woods, a 32-yard scamper by senior fullback John Sughrue, and a 30-yard dash by senior quarterback Zach Cavanaugh.
Maine Maritime closed the gap to 21-20 at the half, responding to Cavanaugh's score with a 1-yard touchdown run by Angell and a 7-yard scamper by senior fullback and Championship Game MVP Jim Bower.
Bower gave his team its first lead of the day at 9:55 of the third quarter on a 1-yard plunge, but the Colonels pulled even at 28-28 less than three minutes later on a 2-yard scoring pass from Cavanaugh to senior wide receiver Jon Rodriguez.
The two teams would then trade a pair of touchdowns that resulted in the 42-42 tie with 42 seconds remaining. Bower ran for his third score of the day from five yards out at 2:45 of the third frame. Curry went ahead by a point 35-34 with 11:11 remaining in the game when Cavanaugh found senior tight end Jeff Hibbard in the corner of the end zone from 27 yards out. A 1-yard run by Angell at 3:23 put the Mariners back on top 42-35, but again the Colonels responded, tying the contest after a Cavanaugh 6-yard touchdown run.
Maine Maritime rolled up 452 yards of total offense to 394 yards for Curry, but rushing yards were nearly even, with Curry holding a slight edge, 345-342.
Bower led all rushers with 166 yards on 37 carries, followed by sophomore running back Nick Bourassa with 77 yards on seven attempts. Angell rushed for 66 yards and went 4-for-7 in pass attempts for 110 yards.
Woods paced the Colonels' ground attack, rushing 26 times for 146 yards. Cavanaugh surpassed the century mark with 101 yards on 13 rushes. Sughrue ran for 84 yards on 10 attempts. Cavanaugh also completed 4 of 8 pass attempts for 49 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
Junior linebacker Wade Mondoux led all tacklers with a game-high 10 hits (8 solo), including a pair of tackles for loss (minus-16 yards). Senior linebacker Travis Fergola collected nine tackles (6 solo) and had a key fumble recovery in the fourth quarter.
The Curry defense was paced by junior linebacker Kevin McCarthy, who had eight tackles (6 solo), and senior linebacker Dan Dawson, who contributed seven solo stops.
Maine Maritime captured its first outright NEFC title since 1993 and its ninth overall, and will now await the release of the NCAA Tournament Field of 32 pairings on Sunday, Nov. 15.