Gustafson Scores Four, Trudel's Late Keeper Lifts Massachusetts Maritime To Wild 54-53 Win At Western Connecticut

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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Westside Athletic Complex, Danbury, Conn.




DANBURY, Conn. --  Junior John Trudel's (Niantic, Conn.) three-yard touchdown run with four minutes remaining proved to be the winning score as Massachusetts Maritime received a career-high 235 rushing yards and a school record-tying four touchdowns from senior Stefan Gustafson (Plymouth, Mass.) and held on in the closing minutes to post a wild 54-53 Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference football victory over Western Connecticut Saturday afternoon at the Westide Athletic Complex.


After the two teams exchanged fumbles on their opening drives, Gustafson staked the visiting Buccaneers (3-2, 2-2 MASCAC) to an early lead with a three-yard run 5:14 into the contest, but the host Colonials (3-2, 2-2 MASCAC) answered with a nine-play drive that was capped by a 15-yard touchdown run by senior Octavias McKoy (Stratford, Conn.).  Gustafson then broke off the third longest touchdown run in Massachusetts Maritime history of 87 yards to give the visitors a 14-7 lead with 3:12 to play in the opening frame, and the Buccaneers extended that margin to 21-7 after junior Kevin Stanton (Abington, Mass.) intercepted a pass on his own 37 and turned the ball over to senior quarterback Mike Stanton (Quincy, Mass.), who connected on a 33-yard scoring strike to junior E.J. Bennett (East Wareham, Mass.) four plays later.

McKoy's 13-yard run early in the second stanza brought Western Connecticut back to within eight and 21-13, as a blocked extra point by Buccaneer junior Brad Skeffington (Salem, Mass.) would prove to be crucial later in the game, and the Colonials closed back to within one midway through the quarter when junior quarterback Will Arndt (Newtown, Conn.) connected with sophomore Connor Falaguerra (Milford, Conn.) on an eight-yard touchdown pass to cap a 10-play, 71-yard drive.  After trading punts, Gustafson's third score of the day from seven yards out gave Massachusetts Maritime a 28-20 lead with 1:43 remaining in the half, but McKoy answered with his third visit to the end zone of the afternoon for Western Connecticut from a yard out for a 28-27 Buccaneer advantage at the break.


The Colonials erased their 14-point deficit and turned that margin into a 13-point lead on their first two possessions after intermission, as McKoy's four touchdown run of the day (a 1-yard plunge) gave the hosts a 34-28 lead, and an Arndt-to-Falaguerra 14-yard scoring connection just 2:38 later extended that margin to 41-28.  Gustafson responded with his fourth rushing touchdown of the contest from nine yards out on the ensuing Massachusetts Maritime possession that enabled the visitors to close back to within 41-35, and following a punt by the hosts, Mike Stanton directed the Buccaneers on a 16-play, 70-yard drive that consumed six minutes and was capped when Trudel found Bennett from four yards out for a 42-41 Massachusetts Maritime lead seven seconds into the final frame.


Arndt continued the see-saw battle by hooking up with sophomore Brandon Johnson (Montville, Conn.) on a 34-yard touchdown pass with 9:31 remaining and a 47-42 Colonial lead, but Mike Stanton answered back with a 47-yard scoring strike to senior Keith Caruso (Hingham, Mass.) on the ensuing Buccaneer possession to give the visitors a one-point edge once again at 48-47.  McKoy's school-record fifth rushing touchdown of the day, his third from a yard out, provided Western Connecticut with its final lead of the day at 53-48 with 5:42 to play, but Massachusetts Maritime responded in the back-and-forth affair that saw the teams combine for 16 total touchdowns on its next possession, as Mike Stanton connected with junior Jonathon Wright (Newburyport, Mass.) on a 51-yard pass that set up Trudel's winning score.  The Colonials took possession on their own 45 yard line after that plunge and drove to the Buccaneer 11 with one minute remaining, and a potential game-winning field goal attempt by junior Mike Killoran (West Hartford, Conn.) from 28 yards out sailed wide left, allowing the visitors to run out the clock.


Gustafson, who has gone over the 200-yard mark in three of his last four contests, tied the Massachusetts Maritime record of four rushing touchdowns set originally by Mike Quinn against Framingham State on October 28, 1978 and subsequently tied by Steve Crowley in 1982 and Kevin Piecewicz in 1992.  Mike Stanton completed 22-of-33 pass attempts for 349 yards and extended his school career touchdown passes mark to 43 for the Buccaneers, as Bennett hauled in seven connections for 83 yards and Caruso added six receptions for 153 yards to close to within 38 yards of matching Tim Quinn's school career receiving yards mark of 1,733 set from 1981-83.  Trudel has now run 70 total plays on offense this season (39 rushing, 31 passing) and has accounted for 12 touchdowns for Massachusetts Maritime, which entered the day ranked third nationally in Division III in total offense at 589.3 yards per game and amassed 676 yards (378 passing, 298 rushing), the fifth highest single game total in school history.  The visitors ran 97 total plays on the day and have now run 309 plays in their last 12 quarters of action, including an NCAA Division III record 121 plays in a 64-63 setback at Worcester State on September 28th.


In addition to setting Western Connecticut's single-game rushing touchdowns mark, McKoy also set a Colonial record with 372 rushing yards on 42 carries, as he accounted 61 percent of the hosts' 606 yards of total offense.  Arndt completed 14-of-22 pass attempts for 170 yards to go with his three scores in the setback, as Falaguerra hauled in six receptions for 72 yards.


Senior Michael Sylvia (Lincoln, Mass.) and junior Kyle Espindola (Dartmouth, Mass.) each recorded eight tackles to lead the way defensively for Massachusetts Maritime, as Skeffington recorded a career-high seven total tackles while forcing and recovering a fumble, notching a pass break-up and blocking an extra point on the day for the Buccaneers, who forced three turnovers (including one at their goal line).  Graduate student Michael Lacaria (Watertown, Mass.) led Western Connecticut on the defensive side with 14 total tackles (12 solo), as today's contest was the first meeting between the two teams in 28 years (a 31-17 Colonial victory on October 19, 1985).


Massachusetts Maritime heads to Westfield, Mass. next Saturday afternoon to take on Westfield State in a Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference outing that kicks off at 2:00 p.m., while Western Connecticut hosts Fitchburg State in a MASCAC clash next Saturday afternoon at the Westside Athletic Complex beginning at 5:00 p.m.