EASTON, Mass. – The Merrimack College football team opened the second half with a statement win at rival Stonehill, as the Warriors rolled their way to a 38-24 victory over the Skyhawks on Saturday at W.B. Mason Stadium.
Merrimack ran out to a 21-3 lead thanks to three first-half touchdown passes from freshman quarterback Christian Carter, who had nearly 300 yards of total offense in the first 30 minutes alone. He was particularly lethal with the long ball, tossing scoring passes of 90 yards and 78 yards to senior Cody Demers and freshman Johnny Rosario, respectively, to highlight the first-half fireworks. The defense, on the other end, kept Stonehill to three points for most of the half before the Skyhawks got a late score to cut the Warrior lead to 21-10 at the halfway point.
After the offense stole the show in the first half, the Merrimack defense made its mark throughout the second half. Early in the third quarter, the Warriors denied the Skyhawks on a 4th & 1 to put the ball back in Carter’s hands, and he promptly capitalized with another scoring strike to Demers to make it 28-10. A similar defensive effort set up another Merrimack scoring drive after sophomore Caleb Holden forced a fumble on what would have otherwise been a Stonehill touchdown, and then it was Carter finding Rosario for the fifth passing touchdown of the night from the former to give the Warriors their largest lead of the game.
The Skyhawks found the end zone twice over the final seven minutes of the game sandwiched around a Merrimack field goal, but the Warriors’ lead never was less than 14 the rest of the way.
Score: Merrimack 38, Stonehill 24
Records: Merrimack (2-4, 2-3 NE10) | Stonehill (1-5, 1-4 NE10)
Location: W.B. Mason Stadium | Easton, Mass.
- After Stonehill missed a 31-yard field goal on its first drive of the game, Merrimack took the lead about five minutes later on the first of three first-half touchdowns from Carter, who connected with redshirt junior Marquis Spence on to wrap up an 11-play, 80-yard scoring drive with 5:52 in the opening quarter. Carter converted a pair of 3rd & longs as part of that sequence, including a 14-yarder to Spence earlier in the drive.
- The Warriors were pinned deep on their first drive of the second quarter after a punt was downed at their 2 yard line. Staring at a 3rd & 2 at the 10, Carter connected with Demers for what was a 90-yard touchdown pass and catch, marking the longest scoring play in both players’ careers.
- Merrimack got the ball late in the half and needed only 10 seconds to find the end zone again. This time, it was Carter connecting with classmate Rosario on the very first play of the drive, as the score went for 78 yards to make it a 21-3 lead for Merrimack.
- The Skyhawks found the end zone for the first time on the last drive of the opening half, converting a 4th & 3 and a 3rd & 6 along the way to go 73 yards over 14 plays and make it a 21-10 game at the midpoint.
- Early in the third, the Skyhawks threatened to draw closer following Carter’s only Interception of the game, but the defense answered the call. Stonehill drove inside the Merrimack 40, but was turned away on 3rd & 4 and then again on 4th & 1 to give possession back to the visitors.
- Merrimack made it hurt on its ensuing drive, as Carter eventually found Demers again for the fourth touchdown of the night and second score that combined the two. The score came on a 3rd & goal from the 13, one of three third-down attempts converted during the drive, which started at the Merrimack 30.
- The defense came up with a huge takeaway early in the fourth quarter thanks to the efforts of sophomore defensive back Caleb Holden. The Stonehill tailback initially found some daylight and was a yard out from the end zone, but Holden stripped the ball away at the last second, as the fumble rolled into the end zone for a touchback, keeping it a 28-10 lead.
- Right on cue, the Warriors capitalized; Merrimack went 80 yards over nine plays and found pay dirt for the fifth time after Carter connected with Rosario from 20 yards away to push the lead to 35-10.
- Stonehill answered on its next drive, as B. Kearns Jr. scored on a 44-yard rush on a 3rd & 6 to get the Skyhawks within 35-17.
- Merrimack added to its lead with a 32-yard field from Corey Resendes with 2:14 left before Stonehill found the end zone one last time on a quick eight-play scoring drive that brought them within 14, but that was the closest the Skyhawks would get, as Demers hauled in the onside kick that followed to seal it.
- Carter was electric Saturday night, finishing with a career-high 430 yards on a personal best five touchdowns and one interception. He completed 26-of-36 (72.2%) of his passes, but that wasn’t all; the true freshman added another 112 yards on the ground for 542 total yards of created offense in the game, putting together a historic performance.
- Demers tied his career-high with 153 yards on just five catches, averaging over 30 yards per catch while setting a new personal record with the 90-yard scoring play. Rosario finished with 142 yards on six catches, a new high water mark for him, as well, while securing a career-high two touchdown catches. Same went for Spence, who finished with career-bests in catches (10) and yards (92) while adding another touchdown himself, as well.
- On the defensive side of the ball, redshirt sophomore Michael Mercuri led the way with 11 tackles, while Holden had the huge forced fumble. Freshman Troy Shallow finished with a sack, while redshirt sophomore Jake Ragusa and junior Robert Hulse combined for another.
Notes & Numbers
- Carter made plenty of history Saturday night. He became the first quarterback to rush for over 100 yards since James Suozzo ’12 scampered for 139 yards against AIC in the 2011 season, but Suozzo had a mere 136 passing yards in that game.
- Going further, Carter became the first player since Suozzo to pass for more than 300 yards and rush for 100 more, when the latter did so three times in the 2009 season. The last time the feat was accomplished was on Oct. 30, 2009, in a 52-42 Merrimack win over Southern Connecticut State. Suozzo rushed for 103 and threw for 364 yards in that game, good for 467 total – almost 100 less than the total offense created by Carter on Saturday.
- Merrimack evened the all-time series at 12-12 thanks to the win Saturday; Stonehill had won the last seven games in the series, as the Warriors’ last win before tonight was a 43-30 win at home on Oct. 22, 2011.
- The 547 yards of total offense for Merrimack were the most since totaling 501 against Pace last Oct. 14 in a win at home. The last time the team had more total offense was when it racked up 567 yards in a shootout at Assumption on Sept. 18, 2015.
- Total Yards (Rushing-Passing-Total): 117-430-547 // 234-198-432
- Takeaways (INT/FF): 0/1 // 1/0
- Total 1st Downs: 20 // 28
- 3rd Down Conversions: 9-14 | 4-14
- 4th Down Conversions: 0-0 | 3-4
- Time of Possession: 29:52 // 30:08
Merrimack continues its two-game road swing when it heads to Saint Anselm next Saturday (Oct. 20) for a noon kickoff at Grappone Stadium.