CASTLETON, Vt. – Mount Ida sophomore Chris McNally rushed for 247 yards and two scores to lead a Mustang ground attack that piled up 342 total yards on the ground en route to a 52-28 win over Castleton Saturday afternoon at Spartan Stadium.
McNally carried the ball 33 times to lead the attack while Melquan Pinkney added 87 yards on 11 carries and a pair of touchdowns. Quarterback Scott Drosendahl finished his afternoon with 170 yards, completing 8-of-16 passes with two scores. Jordan Hyman proved to be the favorite target on the day, hauling in six catches for 139 yards and two touchdowns.
Castleton freshman quarterback George Busharis went 19-for-42 with 331 yards and three touchdowns but was also intercepted three times on the afternoon. Senior Greg Vreeland finished the fourth quarter for the Spartans completing five passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. Brandon Boyle and Kevin Alberque each went over the 100-yard receiving mark with the former hauling in 12 catches for 182 yards and a touchdown, and the latter catching five passes for 115 yards and a score. Tyler Carpenter also had a touchdown reception to go along with 53 yards, while Zach Howe hauled in a late Spartan score.
McNally opened the Mount Ida (8-2, 6-1) scoring with a three-yard touchdown run, capping an eight-play 56-yard drive. McNally racked up 38 yards on the drive, but the big play was a 28-yard connection between Drosendahl and Hyman on third-down and eight to keep the drive alive.
On the ensuing Castleton (7-3, 6-1) drive Kayln Smithson jumped in front of a Spartan screen pass for an interception at the Castleton 29 yardline, setting up the Mustangs with a short field. Five plays later Pinkney punched home his first two scores on the day from five yards out for an early 14-0 lead.
Busharis brought the Spartans back within a touchdown with 44 seconds left in the opening period of play, hooking up with Boyle for a 42-yard touchdown on second-down-and-four. Mount Ida answered three plays later, using a 26-yard touchdown strike from Drosendahl to Hyman to push its lead to 21-7 as the first period expired.
After Castleton's first drive of the second period stalled at the Mount Ida 36, the Mustangs reeled off 10-straight points, including a deflating 96-yard interception return for a touchdown by Jovan Wilkins.
The Spartans answered with a touchdown drive of their own, capped by a juggling, sideline 22-yard grab by Carpenter to cut the deficit to 31-14 heading into halftime. It was as close as they would come, however, as the Mustangs turned a Quan Lovett interception in the end zone into an 80-yard touchdown drive, and opened the scoring in the fourth quarter with a 32-yard touchdown run from McNally to push the lead to 45-14.
Dominique Spaulding led the Mustang defense with seven tackles, while forcing and recovering a Spartan fumble in the third quarter. Wilkins added five tackles to his interception, while Smithson chopped in four.
Brandon Bergeron became Castleton's all-time leading tackler with a game-high 15, pushing his four-year mark to 243. Todd Carr also posted an impressive 15 tackles, becoming the first Spartan to surpass the 100 tackle mark in a season with 106.
With the win Mount Ida clinches the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) Championship and a berth to the NCAA Division III National Tournament. Both teams finish the season at 6-1 in conference play, with the Mustangs earning the title by virtue of the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Mount Ida will learn its opponent on Sunday evening when the NCAA announces the tournament field on its live selection show at 6 pm on www.NCAA.com.
Castleton will learn if it has done enough to secure a berth in an ECAC Bowl game on Monday morning. The Spartans honored 19 seniors prior to kick-off, including 14 four-year players which represent the first full recruiting class in the fledgling program's history.