SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Senior quarterback Bryce Brown (Guilford, CT) ran 12 yards for the winning touchdown in overtime as Western New England rallied for a dramatic 20-13 victory over Framingham State Saturday afternoon (Nov. 12) to capture its first New England Football Conference (NEFC) Championship.
The Golden Bears, who improved to 10-1 with their ninth consecutive win, also earned an automatic invitation to their first NCAA Division III Championship. Pairings and sites will be announced at 6:00 p.m. Sunday (Nov. 13).
Western New England rallied from a 13-0 deficit with less than four minutes in the contest behind Brown..
Taking over at the 24, Brown hit senior back JJ Jachym (Milford, CT) for 16 yards before a penalty moved the ball to the 35. Brown then fired a 65-yard touchdown pass over the middle to junior receiver freshman Brendon Thompson to cut the margin to 13-7 with 3:47 left in the game. Freshman Nick Fox-Edele (Springfield, MA) made the important extra-point.
Fox-Edele then executed a perfect on-sides kick that was recovered by junior Phil Tsopanides (Fairfield, CT) at the visitors 47.
With only one timeout remaining, Brown led his team on a 10-play drive, which ended when he ran one yard for the tying touchdown. Brown kept the drive alive when he scampered 10 yards on fourth-and-nine at the 11.
Fox-Edele, however, missed the extra point to send the contest into overtime.
Framingham State won the coin toss and elected to play defense in the extra period. After Brown scored, the Rams lost six yards on their four plays.
FSU did an excellent job most of the game keeping Brown in check by forcing two interceptions and making three sacks.
There was a strong breeze throughout the game that affected several plays, including the kicking game for both squads.
Western New England had the first good scoring opportunity when junior defensive back Corey Brown (Worcester, MA) recovered a fumble at the 31. Fox-Edele missed a 44-yard field goal that hit the right upright with a minute left in the first quarter.
Sophomore punter/safety Kyle Shonio (Swampscott, MA) played a big role in the Rams first touchdown when he nailed a 65-yard punt that went out-of-bounds at the WNE 1. The Golden Bears gained only three yards and the Rams took over at the 26 following a short punt.
Five plays later sophomore back Melikke Van Alstyne (Salem, MA) ran one yard to give the Rams a 7-0 lead at the 11:18 mark of the second period.
Western New England finally had its best drive late in the period moving from its 28 to the Framingham 17, but lost the ball on downs with a second left before the break.
FSU went ahead 13-0 on the first possession of the third period when sophomore quarterback Dino Mancinelli (Madison, CT) connected with senior receiver James McCarthy (Newton, MA) on a 77-yard score just 56 seconds into the quarter. McCarthy out-jumped Brown for the ball and raced the final 40 yards down the left sideline. Senior placekicker/safety Mark Nunes (Taunton, MA) missed the extra point attempt.
Western New England appeared to score its first touchdown late in the third when Brown hit freshman receiver Kareem Hines (South Burling, VT) over the middle on a 22-yard score. The official ruled that the ball hit the ground and Fox-Edele then missed a 34-yard field goal in the wind with 1:41 left in the stanza.
With the wind behind his back, Shonio had punts of 56 yards and 47 yards (on third down on the last play of the third period) to keep the Golden Bears pinned deep in their own territory.
Framingham State appeared headed to the victory when Nunes and Shonio came up with interceptions in the final period, but couldn't take score. Western New England came through with a big play stopping the Rams on fourth-and eight from the 24 that set up the scoring pass from Brown to Thompson.
After the Golden Bears tied the score, the Rams moved to the WNE 49 before Mancinelli tossed a Hail Mary pass that junior defensive back Alex Miller (Seekonk, MA) intercepted at the 12 with one second left in regulation.
Western New England had a commanding 394 to 140 advantage in total yards and controlled the ball for 35 minutes, 14 seconds.
Brown finished with 104 yards rushing on 27 carries and completed 12-of-29 passes for 160 yards in earning the MVP Championship plaque. Freshman back Kevin Cook (Hamburg, NJ) added 56 yards on the ground. Senior receiver Matt Potenza (Hopkinton, MA) had four receptions for 39 yards.
Sophomore defensive tackle Kevin Soule (Medfield, MA) had a team best 10 tackles (two-and-a-half for losses) and shared a sack with junior defensive end James Georges (Stamford, CT). Sophomore linebacker Brandon Orsmby (Windsor, CT) added six stops.
Mancinelli completed 10-of-20 passes for 117 yards while McCarthy had four catches for 95 yards.
The Golden Bears did a great job controlling Van Alstyne who entered the game fourth nationally with 1,557 yards and sixth in scoring with 20 touchdowns. He was held to only 22 yards on 21 carries. Shonio finished with an outstanding 41.9 average for nine punts.
Sophomore linebacker Patrick McGrath (Everett, MA) led the Rams with 11 tackles.
The Rams, who fall to 7-4, are expected to receive an invitation to an Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Bowl game on Monday (Nov. 14).