Late Bison Bid Blocked, Worcester State Edges Nichols, 32-29
Dudley, MA --- The Nichols College Bison and the Worcester State Lancers finished off their non-division schedules at Michael J. Vendetti Field as the Lancers came out on top, 32-29, behind 254 yards and three touchdowns on 20-of-41 passing from junior quarterback Tony Tokarz (Holden, MA).
The defensive leader for the Lancers again was senior linebacker Tyler Russell (Princeton, MA). After a 20 tackle game last week against WPI, Russell had an even more impressive follow-up performance with a career-high 22 tackles (17 assisted) this week, giving him 53 in three games on the year.
It was Nichols getting off to the hot start this week, though. The Bison had not allowed a first quarter touchdown coming into the game and the stellar early game defense continued when senior Evan Greathead (Pepperell, MA) intercepted a Tokarz pass on Worcester State's first possession, returning it to the Worcester State 10 yard line. Just three plays later Nichols lined up in the "Wildcat" formation and freshman Joe Lambert (New Haven, CT) completed a leaping two yard touchdown pass to freshman Antonio Thurston (West Palm Beach, FL), giving Nichols an early 7-0 lead.
On Worcester State's next possession, Tokarz was intercepted again, this time by sophomore Alec Tavares (Boston, MA). Jankins capped off the drive and the first quarter scoring with a 22 yard field goal, making the score 10-0 Nichols after one quarter of play.
Worcester State opened up the second quarter scoring with a 90 yard, five play drive that lasted only 1:20. Tokarz connected with Cliff Oratakhai (Worcester, MA) for a 31 yard touchdown pass with 8:17 remaining in the second quarter, cutting the Nichols lead down to three. Oratakhai had a game high 99 yards on seven catches including the one touchdown.
Nichols responded quickly when freshman Irie Perry (West Palm Beach, FL) finished off a seven play drive with a nine yard touchdown run. The score was briefly 17-7, but Worcester State would respond even quicker. Just minutes later, Tokarz found Kenny Russell (Bedford MA) for a seven yard score to make it 17-14.
The scoring continued on Nichols' next drive. Junior Sean Vaughan (Cumberland, ME) completed a 10 yard pass to freshman Brandon Richard (Feeding Hills, MA). Worcester State's Cameron Jones (Stow, MA) blocked the point-after attempt, but Nichols still had a 23-14 lead heading into the half.
Tokarz continued to make up for his early game woes with another touchdown strike to Russell. The drive only took 1:18, but that would be the only score of the quarter. Defense was the story of the third quarter. Russell had eight tackles in the quarter.
Nichols College penalties helped Worcester State complete a short 24 yard drive. A pair of pass interference penalties helped the Lancers into the end zone early in the fourth quarter on a two-yard plunge by junior Marcus Price (Worcester, MA/Doherty). A third pass interference call gave the Lancers a second chance to complete the ensuing two-point conversion by Tokarz, giving Worcester State its first lead of the game at 29-23.
After a Lancers 32-yard field goal by Erich Perfetti (Shrewsbury, MA) Nichols' offense awoke for the first time in the second half. Freshman Mark Parker (Natick, MA) found himself on the receiving end of a 39 yard touchdown pass from Vaughan. Junior Bill Crory (Townsend, MA) missed his first extra point of the season making the score 32-29.
Parker finished with five catches for 92 yards, while Vaughan threw for 170 yards and two touchdowns on 14-of-35 passing with an interception. Thurston and freshman Daqain Yarrell (Brockton, MA) combined for 29 rushes and 120 yards.
Freshman CJ Vural (Coral Springs, FL) notched a team-high nine tackles for the Bison while classmate Michael Merjuste (Norwich, CT) finished with six tackles, a forced fumble and 1.5 tackles for a loss. Senior Patrick Gregory (Webster, NY) recorded three of Nichols' 10 pass breakups.
Price would end the game with 68 yards and a score while Oratakhi and Russell each hauled in seven receptions for 186 yards and all three of Tokarz's touchdowns.
Sophmore Graham Asum (Marlboro, MA) was also sensational in the return game as he had four run backs for 121 yards and a long of 52 yards, but it was Andrew Scerra's (Marlboro, MA) 47 yard return to open the second half that set up the Lancers first touchdown after the break. Asum and Lewis also chipped in with eight tackles apiece as Jones grabbed his team-leading fourth interception. Junior Ray St. Laurent (Shrewsbury, MA) also recovered a fumble to set up the go-ahead touchdown as he collected seven stops.
Nichols College falls to 0-3 on the season while Worcester State improves to 2-1.
The Bison will celebrate homecoming and kickoff Boyd Division play next weekend with a matchup against Western New England College at 1 PM Saturday, September 25. Worcester State will also be at home next Saturday, taking on Westfield State to open Bogan Division action at 1:30 PM.