Gulls defense stands strong in 24-17 win over Salve Regina
Rob Palardy, Sports Information Director
BEVERLY, Mass. – After Salve Regina hit a field goal at the 11:29 mark in the 4th quarter to pull within seven points of Endicott, the Gulls defense forced the Seahawks to punt twice, turn the ball over on downs, and throw an interception on a tipped pass as Endicott won 24-17 at home.
The Gulls improved to 4-0 on the season and with today's victory, moved to 1-0 in NEFC Boyd Division play. Salve Regina dropped to 2-2 (0-1 NEFC Boyd). Both teams will be competing in divisional games next Saturday with Endicott traveling to Curry for a 7:00 pm showdown with the Colonels while Salve Regina hosts Western New England on their Homecoming Weekend at 12:00 pm.
The Endicott defense was led by senior defensive end Kevin Eagan (West Hartford, Conn.) who had a team-high 13 tackles with four tackles for a loss, including three sacks. Six of his 13 tackles went for a loss. Eagan also forced a fumble on a sack that was recovered by junior linebacker Peter Kallas (Beverly, Mass.), resulting in a touchdown pass to junior tight end Taylor Allen (Westboro, Mass.) on the ensuing Endicott drive.
The Seahawks did their part defensively by forcing four turnovers, including three interceptions by Salve Regina defensive backs. Midway through the second quarter, Seahawks senior linebacker AJ Albert (Franklin Park, N.J.) picked off Phil Konopka (Shelton, Mass.) near midfield and returned the ball the Endicott 37-yard line to give his team good starting field position. Salve Regina would score on that drive as senior quarterback Jimmy Connelly (Berlin, Conn.) connected with sophomore running back Richie Edwards (Trumbull, Conn.), who found open space down the sideline for a 32-yard score.
Salve Regina would intercept the ball two more times in the game, but could not convert those turnovers into points as they missed a field goal and turned the ball over on downs on each of the following possessions.
In the first quarter, Salve Regina jumped out to a 7-0 lead after an Edwards run that looked to be halted for a solid gain by Gulls defensive back Andrew Lawson(Framingham, Mass.), but Edwards broke the tackle and dashed 64 yards for the game's first points. Edwards finished the game with 90 yards rushing on 20 carries and two catches for 36 yards receiving.
The Gulls had an opportunity to get three points on the board, but sophomore kicker Dylan Rushe (Palos Verdes, Calif.) had his 21-yard attempt blocked by senior Anthony DePaolo (Southington, Conn.).
Endicott would regain possession and tie the score at 7-7 on a leaping catch by Taylor Allen over his defender from one-yard out. Quarterback Phil Konopka finished 16-of-25 for 126 yards and a touchdown, but threw three picks in the game. He was also sacked twice by the Seahawks defense.
Early in the second quarter at 10:48, the Gulls took a 14-7 lead on a seven-yard touchdown run by senior tailback Mike Lane (Medfield, Mass.). It was Lane's third touchdown of the season. Salve Regina responded four minutes later on the Edwards 32-yard touchdown catch from Connelly to make it 14-14.
On Endicott's next drive on 1st and 10 from their own 32-yard line, Mike Lane rushed to the outside and make a cutback run down the middle of the field 67 yards to the Salve Regina one-yard line. Junior running back Jared DiBiase (Cranston, R.I.) punched the ball into the end zone to put Endicott ahead 21-14.
The Gulls tacked on three more points on a Dylan Rushe 30-yard field goal and took a 24-14 lead into halftime.
No points were scored in the third quarter despite a Salve Regina interception by junior Matthew Markese (West Hartford, Conn.) that was returned 22 yards to the Endicott 27-yard line. Despite the quality field position, the Endicott defensive allowed just one first down before watching a Seahawks field goal attempt from 27 yards sail wide left.
At the start of the fourth quarter, Salve Regina got the ball down the Gulls five-yard line but on third down, a Connelly pass intended for junior wide out Trey Scales (Boston, Mass.) went incomplete as Salve Regina had to settle for a 22-yard field goal by Brendan Deasy (Quincy, Mass.) to cut Endicott's lead down to seven at 24-17. Scales had a solid day receiving, catching six balls for 45 yards, with tight end Patrick Keenan (North Smithfield, R.I.) adding four catches for 52 yards in the loss.
Endicott's final offensive highlight of the day came late in the fourth quarter as the Gulls tried to maintain possession through the run game. Mike Lane broke off another long run, this time a 58-yard scamper down to the Salve Regina 35-yard line. Lane turned in his third-straight 100-yard game as the senior rushed 27 times for 164 yards.
Salve Regina had one last opportunity to drive down the field to tie the game, but on their final possession and on the first play, Connelly's pass was tipped and intercepted by sophomore Jason Silva (Maynard, Mass.) to give Endicott back the ball. Silva, the nation's leader in interceptions, made his fifth pick of the year.
Defensively, Gulls linebackers Peter Kallas and sophomore Andrew Holfinger (Sterling, Mass.) came up big with a combined 5.5 tackles for a loss. Kallas had 10 tackles total with a sack and a fumble recovery. Junior linebacker Craig Lussier (Dracut, Mass.) added seven tackles in the win.
For Salve Regina, AJ Albert led all players with 14 tackles and recorded an interception. Senior defensive lineman Carlos Santos (Trumbull, Conn.) forced a fumble on a quarterback sack, but the ball was recovered by Gulls center Mike Zupkosky (Westford, Mass.).