The Western New England College football team spoiled Nichols' homecoming Saturday afternoon, defeating the Bison, 28-10, in the New England Football Conference Boyd Division Opener at Michael J. Vendetti Field. Nichols falls to 0-4 on the year, while Western New England improves to 3-1.
Junior quarterback Bryce Brown (Guilford, Conn.) had 111 yards passing along with 72 on the ground and a pair of touchdowns for the Golden Bears, while junior running back J.J. Jachym (Milford, Conn.) ran for two touchdowns and 108 yards.
As has been the case all year for Nichols, the first quarter was all about defense. Coming into the game the Bison had not allowed a first quarter point and that continued against the Golden Bears, whose defense came to play as well.
The only big play of the opening frame came from the Nichols offense on a 43 yard pass completion from freshman Justin Martin (Warwick, R.I.) to classmate Brandon Richard (Feeding Hills, Mass.) to the Western New England three yard line. Martin threw for 100 yards on 7-of-11 passing with one interception in his first career start at quarterback.
The 43 yard play was also his first career completion and it led to a field goal from sophomore Cody Jankins (West Brookfield, Mass.). Nichols had a 3-0 lead after one quarter of play.
Nichols junior quarterback Sean Vaughan (Cumberland, Maine) took over the throwing duties in the second quarter and on his first drive, he was picked off by freshman Brandon Ormsby (Windsor, Conn.) giving the Golden Bears good field position, but the Bison defense kept them off the scoreboard.
When Nichols got the ball back they were able to pad their lead. Vaughan found freshman Mark Parker (Natick, Mass.) for a 50 yard completion putting the Bison up 10-0. Vaughan finished the day with 64 yards on 3-of-8 passing along with two interceptions and a touchdown.
Western New England responded with a touchdown of their own on their next drive. Brown scampered into the end zone from 16 yards out reducing the Nichols lead to 10-7 at halftime.
Neither team was able to score in the third quarter, as the defensive battle continued, but the Golden Bears were knocking as the quarter ended. With a first down and goal to go to start the fourth quarter, Western New England punched the ball into the end zone on the first play of the frame. Jachym rushed the ball from seven yards out to give the Golden Bears their first lead at 14-10.
Minutes later Vaughan threw his second interception of the day. Senior Pat Lesko (Seymour, Conn.) picked off the pass and returned it to the Nichols five yard line. Two plays later Jachym scored his second touchdown giving the Golden Bears a two possession lead at 21-10.
The mistakes continued to pile up for Nichols. The Golden Bears' ensuing kickoff was a short one and Nichols let it bounce. The Golden Bears got to it first and retained possession at the Nichols 31 yard line.
Although unable to capitalize on this mistake, time was a major factor at this point and Western New England was able to kill 2:53 giving Nichols a little over five minutes to score twice.
Two plays into the ensuing Nichols drive with Martin back in at quarterback, sophomore Corey Brown (Worcester, Mass.) intercepted the ball ending any hopes of a Nichols comeback. A late touchdown run by Brown capped the game's scoring at 28-10.
Coming into the game Nichols had the number one ranked rush defense in the New England Football Conference, but Western New England was still able to compile 260 yards rushing on 44 attempts.
In the loss, senior Evan Greathead (Pepperell, Mass.) came up with a career high 18 tackles for Nichols, while senior Dylan Chandler (Durham, Maine) led the Golden Bears with eight tackles.
Nichols College will continue division play next Saturday, October 2nd at Plymouth State University, looking to snap a three game losing streak against the Panthers and get their first win of the year. That game is set to begin at 2 p.m. Western New England will head home next Saturday for a 1 p.m. kickoff against Salve Regina University.