Sitting in a three-way tie for first place atop the Northeast-10 Conference standings, the Merrimack College football team shoots for its third consecutive victory on Saturday night, as the Warriors meet reigning league runner-up Stonehill under the lights at W.B. Mason Stadium in Easton, Massachusetts. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.
Date/Time: Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014 | 6 p.m.
Records: Merrimack (2-1, 2-0 NE-10) | Stonehill (1-2, 1-1 NE-10)
Location: W.B. Mason Stadium | Easton, Mass.
Last Time Out: Junior Armond McRae hauled in a short pass from freshman quarterback Joe Capobianco and took it to the house from 26 yards out for the game-winning score, while the defense combined for an astounding six takeaways, propelling Merrimack to an exhilarating come-from-behind win, 19-17, over LIU Post in the 2014 home opener on Saturday at Martone-Mejail Field.
With time winding down in the third quarter and Merrimack down by three, senior AJ Roberto continued his monster game with a forced fumble in the opening moments of the fourth quarter, giving the Warriors the ball near midfield.
Capobianco would quickly drive the Warriors into scoring position with a 45-yard completion to junior Jere Brown and two plays later connected with classmate Cody Demers from nine yards out to push the hosts on top, 13-10.
LIU answered two drives later, as quarterback Stephen Laurino and the Pioneers slashed their way down field and capped things off with a 30-yard touchdown pass to push the visitors ahead, 17-13, with 7:46 to go.
After both teams’ defenses forced punts, Merrimack got the ball back right at midfield for one last drive, and some timely penalties on LIU set the Warriors up in Pioneer territory with under three minutes to go. Capobianco first found Brown for a 14-yard strike to the 26-yard line, and then rolled to his right, slung it to McRae, and the latter did all the rest, slicing across the first-down marker, spinning around another defender and dashed all the way to the end zone for the decisive score of the game.
The Pioneers were greeted by a huge sack from sophomore Josh Hill and the Warrior defense forced three errant passes in a row to turn the ball back over to the offense. And from there, McRae scooted ahead for one last first down to seal the win.
Last Season vs. Stonehill
Trailing by 12 with just over two minutes to go in the third quarter, Merrimack kept first-place Stonehill off the board through the remainder of regulation, but the Warriors’ potent offense could not come up with the late-game magic it would need, as a four-turnover afternoon sent Merrimack to a 26-14 setback at home against the first-place Skyhawks last November at Martone-Mejail Field.
After going the entirety of the first half without putting up a point for the first time in recent memory, the Warriors came out of the gate firing in the third quarter, needing just about five minutes and 15 plays before senior Joe Clancy hit sophomore wideout Jere Brown for a four-yard strike to put the home side on the board and make it a six-point (13-7) game with 10:12 to go in the third.
After Stonehill responded with a touchdown, the Warriors would answer, as the offense went 89 yards over 12 plays in just over three minutes before Clancy found freshman Justin Mount on a 14-yard strike that made it a one-possession game with 2:22 to go in the third.
But on the ensuing kickoff, Piccirillo took the ball from his own 6-yard line and went all the way to the house, giving Stonehill the insurance points it would need over the remainder of the contest.
The Warriors would have four more opportunities to claw back from their 12-point deficit, and nearly found the end zone on more than one occasion; but untimely turnovers, including a fumble at the Stonehill 25 and a pair of turnovers on downs near the red zone, were the home side’s undoing, as Merrimack was forced to settle for its lowest single-game scoring total since a 20-7 loss at Bryant back on Sept. 13, 2008.
-Challenged themselves with a season-opening home test against 2013 NCAA Tournament participant and PSAC power Bloomsburg and fell, 24-7, before rebounding with an impressive road win at Bentley, marking the first Skyhawk win in Waltham since the 1995 season.
– Traveled to reigning league champion AIC and suffered a 33-5 setback thanks to a seven-turnover performance
– Allow only 24.7 points per game (4th/NE-10), as three players already have totaled over 20 tackles for the Skyhawks, led by senior linebacker Brian Harrington’s 25 (9 solo) and 8.3 per game
– Are averaging a league-low 12.0 points per game offensively and 306.3 yards of total offense per game
– Junior tailback Colin Markus has dominated on the ground this year, averaging a league-best 116.3 yards per game rushing with two scores
Merrimack returns home and continues its Northeast-10 Conference slate with a test against upstart Saint Anselm on Saturday, Oct. 4. Kickoff from Martone-Mejail Field is set for 1 p.m.
Mike McMahon covers Merrimack College for The Eagle Tribune and is the founder and managing editor of The Mack Report. Mike is also on staff as a senior writer at College Hockey News. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcMahonCHN