MIDDLETOWN, R.I. – In a show down of the top offense and the top defense in the New England Football Conference, the Salve Regina football team came out on top of Western New England, 47-26, on Saturday afternoon at Gaudet Field.
The win for Salve Regina extends its home winning streak to 13 games and improves its overall record to 4-1 while remaining a perfect 3-0 in the NEFC. The Golden Bears fall to 1-4 on the year and 1-2 in the conference.
"Going into this game, facing the top offense in the conference, we knew we had a battle ahead of us, but were confident in our defense," remarked head coach Kevin Gilmartin. "We gave up a couple big plays in the first half and had to clean that up after half time and we did just that. We came out and held a very good offense to limited numbers."
In their very first possession and second play of the game, junior Steven Wilken (Ringwood, N.J.) connected with classmate Matthew Traynor (Secaucus, N.J.) for his first 64-yard pass of the game and get the Seahawks in the red zone fairly quickly. Senior Richie Edwards (Trumbull, Conn.) finished the drive with a 15-yard run into the end zone to give Salve Regina a 6-0 lead after just two minutes of play.
Western New England wasted little time in answering as junior running back Kevin Cook (Hamburg, N.J.) was given the ball on the Golden Bear's first series and took it 75 yards into the end zone to tie the game at six. A blocked extra point attempt by sophomore Hayden Stanton (Wallingford, Conn.) kept the game tied.
With 3:45 to play in the first quarter, WNE turned the ball over on downs and Salve Regina took control on its own 35-yard line. It appeared as though Western New England forced a three-and-out, forcing the Seahawks to punt, but Salve Regina's head coach Kevin Gilmartin had another idea and faked a punt as junior Jiyon Ruffin (Morristown, N.J.) carried the ball 14 yards for an SRU first down. Wilken connected with Traynor on a long pass, this time 35 yards, for his first touchdown of the game, giving Salve Regina a 13-6 lead after junior Christian Clark converted the extra point attempt. Once again, the Golden Bears answered, but this time they needed two plays to find the end zone, the final a 75-yard pass from senior John Krafick (New Mildford, Conn.) to junior Andrew Walz (Groton, Conn.).
Salve Regina took the lead for good midway through the second quarter after a 13-play, 80-yard drive that resulted in Wilken keeping it himself and running the ball in for a five-yard touchdown. Salve Regina forced a pair of three-and-outs by the Golden Bears to wind down the clock and keep the Seahawks up by one score, 20-13. With just 43 seconds left in the half, the Golden Bears were driving down the field but a 10-yard sack by freshman Matt Escoto (Chesire, Conn.) and Ruffin and a broken up pass by senior Joshua Burnett (Whitman, Mass.) kept WNE off the board going into half time.
Clark's 62-yard kick off opened the second half as Western New England began its first drive of the third quarter on their own 18. The defensive held strong and proved why it was the top defense in the league going into today's game allowing just 17 yards on six plays before the Golden Bears had to punt the ball away.
Salve Regina used its next two offensive possessions to take a 33-13 lead over WNE, highlighted by Edwards' rushing touchdown of the game and Wilken's second passing score, this time he found junior Dan Buonocore (Mahwah, N.J.) who used a pair of excellent blocks from the line and broke a few tackles of his own to race 64 yards into the end zone.
The Seahawk defense continued to shut down the Golden Bears' offense as it forced two more three-and-outs before the Seahawks got the ball back with 3:14 to go in the third. Wilken capped a six-play, 52-yard drive with a 12-yard pass to Traynor in the end zone to give SRU a 40-13 lead after three quarters.
The Golden Bears were forced to punt to open the fourth to give the Seahawks the ball on their own 39-yard line. Freshman running back Sam Pascale (Chesire, Conn.) carried the ball five times for 30 yards, including his first career touchdown to push the Seahawk lead to 47-13.
Western New England put the final points on the board with a pair of touchdown drives to end the game, highlighted by two rushing scores from junior Michael Ozzella (Medway, Mass.), one from 26 yards out, the other from 13. The Seahawks got the ball back with 1:15 to play and ran out the clock for a 47-26 victory.
Salve Regina's run game was paced by Edwards with 121 yards, his third-straight 100+ yard run game, on 26 carries and two scores. Wilken threw for an impressive 324 yards, was 21-for-35 (60.0%) with three touchdowns. Wilken ran for 66 yards and one score. Traynor had a career-high 195 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
The Golden Bears were led by Cook with 127 yards on 25 carries and one touchdown while Walz had 85 receiving yards and a score. Krafick threw for 163 yards, completing 13 of 25 passes.
Defensively, Salve Reigna was led by junior Danny Ives (Madison, Conn.) who had 11 tackles on the day, including 0.5 for loss. Junior Frank Musco (Montvale, N.J.) broke up three passes to add to his seven tackles. Sophmore Nathan Fleming (Windham, Conn.) paced the Golden Bears defense with 11 tackles.
Western New England gets back on the field when the Golden Bears host Union (N.Y.) on Saturday, Oct 19 at 1 p.m. Salve Regina travels to Curry on Friday, Oct 18 for a 7 p.m. kick off.