NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – Merrimack College ushered in a new era in school history with the grand opening of Warrior Stadium on Friday night, and the Merrimack College football team christened the new venue with a 44-10 Homecoming Weekend victory over Pace on Saturday afternoon in Northeast-10 Conference action. More than 7,000 fans – a school record – were on hand to witness the first-ever game played at Warrior Stadium.
Score: Merrimack 44, Pace 10
Records: Merrimack (2-4, 2-3 NE10) | Pace (3-3, 2-3 NE10)
Location: Warrior Stadium | North Andover, Mass.
- After a special pregame ceremony that featured President Christopher E. Hopey, Ph.D., flipping a commemorative coin to usher in a new era in Merrimack College history, the Warriors didn’t need very long to record the first touchdown ever at Warrior Stadium. Graduate student CJ Scarpa(Andover, Mass.) connected with senior captain Devin O’Reilly (Glastonbury, Conn.) from eight yards out to get Merrimack on the board midway through the first quarter. A partially blocked punt by freshman Matt DiTondo (Bristoll, R.I.) helped set up the drive near midfield.
- The Merrimack defense turned away the Setters on a 4th down try in Merrimack territory, and the Warriors would capitalize shortly afterward. Scarpa found a wide-open sophomore Sebastian Lucas (Baltimore, Md.), and the latter took it 47 yards for another touchdown.
- First-year sophomore Cam Hayes (Uniondale, N.Y.) made his first appearance in a Merrimack uniform on Saturday, and the dual-threat quarterback made his presence felt immediately, rushing for a pair of touchdowns to help the Warriors build on their lead.
- The second half saw two more touchdowns on the ground, this time from senior Derrick Villard (Cromwell, Conn.), while redshirt freshman Jake Ragusa (Canton, Mass.) intercepted a Pace pass late in regulation to seal the victory.
- Quarter 1 – Merrimack scored on its first offensive drive of the game, going 54 yards over nine plays that culminated with Scarpa finding O’Reilly for the first-ever touchdown at Warrior Stadium. Pace’s next drive got as close as the Merrimack 36 but the Setters were stopped on a 4th down try, and eight plays later, Merrimack’s aerial assault came through again with Scarpa finding a wide-open Lucas, who was uncovered and went 47 yards untouched for Merrimack’s second score. The Warriors would then get the ball right back after a Pace fumble on the ensuing kickoff return, helping set up their next scoring drive.
- Quarter 2 – Merrimack needed only four plays to take a 21-0 lead, as Hayes entered the game for the first time completed a pass before taking it to the end zone himself from 17 yards out. Pace would eventually get on the board on a field goal, but Merrimack answered with a 12-play drive that went 72 yards and ended with Hayes finding the end zone again, this time from four yards away. That would send the home side into the locker room with a 24-point lead at the midpoint.
- Quarter 3 – Pace took advantage of a pair of penalties to help set up its first touchdown drive of the game, as the Setters made it a 27-10 game early in the third quarter. Merrimack’s offense answered again with a long drive, as Villard capped off the 16-play, 82-yard drive with his fifth touchdown of the season to push the Warrior lead to 34-10.
- Quarter 4 – Redshirt senior Stephen Camarro (North Reading, Mass.) pushed the lead to 27 after booting a 30-yard field goal, while the defense turned the Setters over on downs to set up Villard’s second touchdown of the day. Pace would get one last crack after Merrimack’s only turnover of the day, but Ragusa’s second interception of the season denied the visitors another scoring opportunity.
Notes and Notables
- Merrimack had another huge day on the ground, totaling a season-high 334 yards of rushing with Villard coming away with 166 of them while adding two more scores to push his season total to six.
- Hayes, meanwhile, had his two rushing touchdowns and finished with 51 yards on seven rushes, averaging 6.7 per carry. He also competed 4-of-5 passes.
- Scarpa ended his afternoon 12-of-16 with 139 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
- Rookie Rodney Samson (Peekskill, N.Y.) totaled a career-high 93 yards rushing, while Lucas finished with 57 yards to lead all receivers. Redshirt junior Cody Demers (Dracut, Mass.) caught a team-high six passes for 43 yards, as well.
- The Warriors had two sacks as a team, while Ragusa led the way with his five tackles. Redshirt sophomore Damion Wood (Randolph, Mass.)finished with a team-high two pass breakups.
Merrimack’s continues its NE10 with a trip to Southern Connecticut State next Saturday (Oct. 21). Kickoff is set for 3 p.m.