MIDDLETOWN, R.I. - The Salve Regina defense held Plymouth State to just 131 yards of total offense, including just three yards in the entire second half, as the Seahawks shutout the Panthers, 31-0, during an New England Football Conference (NEFC) Boyd Division contest at Gaudet Field on Saturday. With the win, the Seahawks' magic number for clinching the division falls to just one as the team improves to 8-1 overall, including a 5-1 mark during Boyd Division play. The loss marked the fourth straight for the Panthers who fall to 2-7 on the season and 1-5 during division play.
The Seahawks defense set the tone for the game, led by senior Connor Kelly(Milford, Conn.) who recorded eight tackles and 2.5 sacks in the victory. Senior Gregory Sweeney (Fairfield, Conn.) also had a phenomenal game, compiling six tackles, three stops for a loss, 2.0 sacks, and an interception, while junior Joshua Burnett (Whitman, Mass.) matched Kelly with a team-high eight tackles. Senior Maxwell Shubert (West Chester, Pa.) and sophomore Phil Terio (Trumbull, Conn.) each had interceptions with Shubert adding a fumble recovery, while senior Matthew Markese (West Hartfod, Conn.) had seven tackles and 2.5 stops for a loss.
Sophomore quarterback Steven Wilken (Ringwood, N.J.) sparked the Salve Regina offense, completing 14-of-25 passes for 184 yards and two scores while also rushing for 49 yards and touchdown on the ground. Freshman Derrick Sarfo-Darko (East Hartford, Conn.) made several big plays, rushing for 26 yards on just two carries while also reeling in a 31-yard touchdown pass. Sophomore Alex Hennessy (West Babylon, N.Y.) led all players with five receptions on the afternoon, while freshman Alex Hulme (Hopkinton, Mass.)had a game-high 64 yards receiving on four catches. Freshman wide receiver Jason Piontkowski (New London, Conn.) also made an impact, rushing twice for six yards while also grabbing a 16-yard touchdown reception.
The Plymouth State offense was led by senior Andrew Foglia (Montauk, N.Y.) who had a game-high 68 yards rushing on 21 carries, while graduate student Dustin Matthews (Eliot, Maine) gained 22 yards on just three attempts. Junior Zac Iovanella (North Andover, Mass.) also chipped in, catching two passes for 32 yards.
Senior Louis Montegari (Wanaque, N.J.) tied for the game-high in tackles with eight total stops for the Panthers, while freshman Josh Puccio (Wakefield, Mass.) added four tackles and an interception in the loss.
The Seahawks got things going early as Terio returned the opening kickoff 41 yards to set up the Salve Regina offense at their own 44 yard line. From there, the Seahawks marched 56 yards on seven plays, including a 15-yard end around by Sarfo-Darko, a 26-yard completion to Hulme, and a one-yard touchdown dash by Buonocore to seal the drive. Following the extra-point, the Seahawks led 7-0 after just 2:28 of play.
After a quick three-and-out by the Panthers gave the ball back to the Seahawks, Plymouth State appeared to be in business when a poor fourth-down snap on a punt attempt by SRU led to a incomplete pass setting up PSU on the Salve Regina 28 yard line. However, the Seahawks defense held strong as Sweeney intercepted a fourth-down pass to regain possession for Salve Regina.
The Seahawks went three-and-out on the following drive, punting the ball back to the Panthers. With PSU in the midst of a 14-play, 58-yard drive which spanned 7:55, SRU sophomore cornerback Frank Musco (Montvale, N.J.) tipped a pass which was intercepted by Terio and returned 52 yards to the Plymouth State 29 yard line.
The Seahawks took advantage of the turnover when Wilken raced into the endzone from three yards out to put SRU on top 14-0 with 6:55 remaining in the opening half.
The Salve Regina defense once again forced a three-and-out, regaining possession for the Seahawk offense which responded with a seven-play, 64-yard drive capped by a 16-yard touchdown pass from Wilken to Piontkowski to give SRU a 21-0 edge heading into the break.
Coming out of halftime, neither offense was able to do much in the third quarter, as Salve Regina notched the only three points of the period on a 32-yard field goal by freshman Christian Clark (Williamsport, Pa.).
Looking to close things out, the Salve Regina defense really locked things down in the fourth quarter, holding the Panthers to negative nine yards of total offense. The Seahawks offense also did its part to close out the win, as Wilken hooked-up with Sarfo-Darko on a beautiful 31-yard pass up the right sideline for a touchdown, moving the final score to 31-0.
The Panthers will celebrate Senior Day next Saturday when they host Curry at 12 p.m., while the Seahawks look to clinch the NEFC Boyd Division that same day, facing Nichols College at home.