SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - Junior running back Mike Graham (Norwalk, CT) returned the opening kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown and junior quarterback Bryce Brown (Guilford, CT) threw for 165 yards and two touchdowns as the Western New England College football team posted a 37-14 victory over UMass Dartmouth Saturday (Nov. 6) to complete the best season in program history.
Western New England College finished the regular season with an 8-2 record and tied Endicott for first place in the Boyd Division of the New England Football Conference (NEFC) with a 6-1 mark. Endicott won the regular season meeting against WNEC and will visit Bogen Division champion Maine Maritime in the NEFC title game next Saturday (Nov. 13).
The Golden Bears' eight victories established a school record for wins, breaking the old mark of six set last year. Prior to 2009, Western New England College had only six winning seasons since becoming a NCAA Division III varsity program in 1981.
Coach Keith Emery's team also went undefeated at home this season (5-0) for the first time, giving the 13 seniors who were honored before the game a record to remember forever.
After UMass Dartmouth won the coin toss and deferred to the second half, Graham took the opening kick and quickly raced up the middle and then down the left sideline for the touchdown that took only 12 seconds.
Senior linebacker Joe Begnal (Waterbury, CT) blocked a Corsairs' punt on the next series. Junior running back JJ Jachym (Milford, CT) immediately ran 10 yards to give the Golden Bears' ahead 13-0 after just two plays in the opening 1:58.
Senior Jake Field (Long Valley, NJ) increased the margin to 16-0 with a 19-yard field goal with 7:31 left in the opening period.
WNEC appeared ready to break the game open when Brown fired a neat 38-yard pass over the middle to sophomore wide receiver Brendon Thompson (Enfield, CT) for a 23-0 advantage just seven seconds into the second stanza.
UMass Dartmouth settled down and stopped a Golden Bears' scoring drive when sophomore defensive back Darrien Furr (Taunton, MA) intercepted a pass into the end zone.
The Corsairs then marched 80 yards on 15 plays, scoring their first touchdown when sophomore quarterback Patrick Orlando (Manchester, MA) tossed a terrific 17-yard pass to sophomore receiver Brendan McNeish (Springfield, MA) with 3:31 left before halftime.
Western New England College took advantage of two huge turnovers to break the game open in the third quarter.
Orlando drove his team to the WNEC nine-yard line on the first series of the second half, but lost the ball on a fumble at the six.
After a penalty, Brown led the Golden Bears on a nine-play, 97-yard drive that resulted in a two-yard run by Jachym at the 6:26 mark. The big play was a 38-yard completion from Brown to senior receiver Matt O'Brien (South Windsor, CT) that moved the ball to the visitors 32. Jachym also ran for a key first down on a third-and-three from the UMD 25 in the drive.
UMass Dartmouth (3-7, 2-5 Boyd) came right back and moved into scoring territory only to come up short when senior defensive back Pat Lesko (Seymour, CT) intercepted a pass in the end zone. WNEC then went 84 yards on eight plays that ended when Brown fired a 27-yard scoring strike to junior receiver Kenny Muhlack (Groton, CT) for a comfortable 37-7 margin with 33 seconds left in the stanza.
Senior running back Eric Pacy (Rowley, MA) scored on a one-yard run for the Corsairs' final touchdown with 12:42 remaining in the fourth period.
Western New England College out-gained UMass Dartmouth by a 482 to 175 margin. Brown had a game-high 103 yards on the ground on eight carries (12.0 avg.) with a long run of 45 yards. He also completed 12-of-19 passes and had three interceptions. Jachym finished with 98 yards on 15 carries in another outstanding performance.
Senior tight end Dan Crane (Waterbury, CT) led seven players who caught passes with three receptions for 18 yards.
Sophomore free safety Phil Tsopanides (Fairfield, CT) had a team high eight tackles while senior linebacker Dylan Chandler (Durham, ME) and junior defensive end Rob Kampson (West Islip, NY) each added six stops. Chandler also contributed a sack and forced fumble. Senior linebacker Justin Bailey (Northborough, MA) chipped-in with a fumble recovery while junior linebacker Todd Krolikowski (Bristol, CT) had an interception.
Orlando was 10-of-22 passing for 90 yards with two interceptions. He also led the Corsairs with 35 yards rushing. McNeish enjoyed a nice outing with six receptions for 60 yards. Junior linebacker John Cordasco (Rockaway, NJ) posted a team high 11 tackles and picked-off two passes. Freshman defensive back Joe Teixera (Seekonk, MA) followed with 10 stops. Furr had nine tackles, including two for losses.