Nichols rallies from 14-point deficit to stun Westfield State in OT, 28-27

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DUDLEY, Mass. – Senior captain Dylan Rimsky (Denville, N.J.) established single-game records for receptions with 14 and receiving yards with 290 as the Nichols College football team erased a 14-point second-half deficit and stunned Westfield State in overtime, 28-27, Friday night at Vendetti Field.

Sophomore signal-caller Qullian Respass (Huntington, N.Y.) threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns as the Bison (1-0) won their season-opener for the first time since 2007 and snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Owls (0-1). Nichols last win against Westfield State came was a 33-28 triumph in Dudley on Sept. 20, 2003.

"This team believes in one other," said Nichols head coach Kevin Loney, who saw his team outgain the Owls 420-257. "You have to play for each other. Two years ago, we lost to those guys in a very similar fashion, and I really think it set us back. To get this win tonight gives us the confidence to know we can beat someone on this field who we hadn't beaten before. It's a great springboard for us."

Fourteen of Respass' 20 completions were to Rimsky, including a 63-yarder that went for a touchdown to close the third quarter and bring the Bison to with a touchdown at 21-14. On the Owls second possession of the fourth, senior A.J. Farina (Barrington, R.I.) stripped Owls back junior Michael Mercadante (Wilbraham, Mass.), and junior Jonathan Winbush (Boston, Mass.) recovered the ball on the Westfield five-yard line. Three plays later, junior Felipe Njeim (Stoughton, Mass.) plunged in from two yards out to tie the game at 21 to with 8:39 on the clock.

In overtime, Westfield State won the toss and deferred, setting the Bison up on the 25. After a five-yard loss and a sack, Respass found Rimsky at the goal line for a 32-yard scoring strike that put the home team ahead by seven. On the ensuing possession, sophomore Erik Washburn (Lisbon, Conn.) connected with senior Kevin Nicol (Wolcott, Conn.) on third-and-17 for a 21-yard touchdown pass to bring Westfield State to within one. Choosing to go for the win, senior Tommy Leung's (Milford, Mass.) pass was just out of the reach of his intended target and fell to the ground.

"This was awesome, just another day on the job for us," said Rimsky. "This win gives us so much confidence."  

Mercadante finished his evening with a game-high 96 rushing yards – including a two-yard touchdown at 11:04 of the second quarter – that put Westfield State ahead 7-0. Nichols evened the score late in the half when Respass hooked up with Rimsky for a 23-yard touchdown with 1:08 on the clock. Westfield opened the third by scoring 14 unanswered points behind an 18-yard touchdown reception by senior Jeff Winchell (Scituate, Mass.) and a 25-yard TD catch by classmate Kane Terilli (Cranston, R.I.).

 "It's a long game," said Respass. "We just kept working, one touchdown at a time. My first game at Nichols was a great experience, and to come out with a win in overtime is awesome."

Washburn threw for 140 yards and three touchdowns on just 9-of-24 passing while both Nicol and Winchell finished with 47 receiving yards. Njeim, meanwhile, scampered for a team-high 65 yards. Defensively, sophomore Connor Richard (Londonderry, N.H.) led the Bison with seven tackles while sophomore Marcus Pettigrew (Auburn, Mass.) tallied a game-high eight for the Owls.

The Bison return to action on Friday with a 7 p.m. contest against Western Connecticut State. Westfield State hosts Western New England Friday at 7 p.m.

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