PLYMOUTH, N.H. – Senior Matt Alksninis (Mansfield, Mass.) kicked a 37-yard field goal and classmate Kevin McCarthy (Foxboro, Mass.) made a game-saving tackle in overtime on fourth-and-goal at the one-yard line Saturday afternoon as Curry College held on to defeat Plymouth State University, 24-21, in the New England Football Conference Boyd Division finale for both schools.
Alksninis, who was wide left on a potential 38-yard game-winning field goal on the last play of regulation, was good from 37 yards as Curry started the extra period with the ball. Plymouth State ran eight plays on its overtime possession, including a key third-down conversion by senior Steve Campbell (Northborough, Mass./Algonquin) that set up a first-and-goal from the Curry four. The Curry defense responded, keeping the Panthers out of the end zone on four consecutive running plays, two each by Campbell and senior quarterback J.J. Brooks (Seabrook, N.H.). McCarthy made his game-high 22nd tackle on Campbell on fourth down just shy of the goal line, giving Curry the dramatic road victory.
The outcome leaves both teams with identical records of 6-4 overall and 4-3 in the NEFC Boyd Division, tied for fourth place. PSU misses the post-season for the first time since 2006, while Curry is out of the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
The Colonels looked like they were going to run away with the game, taking a 14-0 lead in the first quarter on a pair of TD passes from senior Harold Rose (Buzzards Bay, Mass.) to sophomore Robert Bambini (Westwood, Mass.) The first score came on the first play from scrimmage after Plymouth State fumbled a punt return and Curry recovered at the PSU 35-yard line, and the second came on a three-yard pass following a 48-yard drive.
Plymouth State regrouped and answered with a pair of second-quarter touchdowns. Brooks culminated a 14-play, 71-yard drive with a five-yard scoring run to cut the margin in half. The Panther defense held Curry on the ensuing possession, and sophomore Andrew Foglia (Montauk, N.Y.) made a huge play for the Panther on special teams. Foglia blocked the Curry punt, picked it up at the four-yard line and took it into the end zone to tie the contest up at 14-all at the break.
After a scoreless third quarter, PSU drove into Curry territory early in the fourth quarter but the drive ended when senior Mike Whitaker (Milton, Mass.) stopped Brooks short on fourth down at the Curry 27. After the teams traded punts, Curry pulled ahead on a two-yard TD run by sophomore Bruce Vieira (Pelham, N.H.) The score was set up by a 37-yard completion from Rose to Bambini down to the PSU two-yard line.
The Panthers were not going down without a fight, and proved it on the next possession. They went 58 yards on nine plays and tied the game on a 12-yard TD pass from Brooks to junior Joel Mignault (Billerica, Mass.), his first touchdown of the season, with 1:08 remaining in the fourth quarter. Key plays on the drive included a 17-yard gain from Brooks to Mignault on third-and-10, and a 30-yard completion from Brooks to senior Brendan Fontaine (Canterbury, Conn.) on a third-and-12 play.
Curry had one last chance to win the game in regulation, going 41 yards in the final minute to the PSU 21-yard line, but Alksninis' miss from 38 yards set up the first overtime in Currier Field history.
McCarthy finished with 22 total tackles, including 16 solo stops and two in the Panther backfield. Senior Nicholas Bodge (Shrewsbury, Mass.) also made 10 tackles for the Colonels, and classmate Kenniel Velez (Brockton, Mass.) had two sacks among his five tackles. Bambini led the Curry offense with nine receptions for 126 yards and the two scores.
Senior Brian Castellucci (Derry, N.H./Pinkerton) anchored the Panther defense with 10 tackles, including two sacks and three total tackles in the Curry backfield. Castellucci, an All-NEFC First Team pick a year ago, led the Panthers in tackles this season with 82.
-- 30 --