Worcester, MA --- Worcester State junior Jack Sprague (Maynard, MA) hauled in a 22-yard touchdown pass on fourth-down from classmate Pat Viencek (Bernardston, MA) with 37 seconds left in regulation to help lead the Lancers to a 15-14 victory over crosstown rival WPI in non-conference football action this evening at Coughlin Field.
The Blue and Gold (2-0) have now won three in a row over the Engineers (1-1) who hold the all-time series edge at 14-7. All three wins for WSU have come with under six minutes to play in the fourth quarter.
Following an interception by freshman Carrick Driscoll (E. Longmeadow, MA) that helped set Worcester State up on their own 20 with 2:37 remaining in the game, Viencek made several clutch passes to help the Lancers overcome the late deficit.
Facing third and 15 on their own 37, junior Casey Hippert (Douglas, MA) snatched a 21-yard completion as he sprinted into enemy territory on the WPI 42.
After a key pass interference call put WSU on the Engineer 34, Sprague kept the chains moving with a 14-yard catch to get into the red zone.
With under one minute to play, WPI freshman Kevin Lynch (E. Bridgewater, MA) diagnosed a screen pass that went for a tackle for a loss on first down and then junior Vincent Samuel (Merrick, NY) swatted a pass at the line of scrimmage on third and 12.
That set the stage for Viencek's heroics as he completed the fourth down play to Sprague for what proved to be the game-winning score.
Worcester State claimed the early 3-0 lead on a 33-yard field goal by senior Alex Blakeslee (Shrewsbury, MA) on their first possession with 11:26 remaining in the opening quarter.
On the Engineers second series of the contest, junior Zach Grasis (E. Brookfield, MA) coughed up the ball on their own nine to put the Lancers in great field position.
After the visitors nearly stonewalled the hosts at the goal line, the Blue and Gold drew up a fake field goal play to extend the lead to 9-0 on an eight-yard scoring strike from Driscoll to junior Zack Skerry (Milford, MA) with 3:59 in the first quarter.
WPI immediately responded with a 41-yard flick by senior John Antonopoulos (Cambridge, MA) to classmate Ehab Hamdan (Revere, MA) with 1:45 on the clock. Hamdan snuck behind the secondary on a curl route and he streaked into the end zone for the score.
Both defenses locked heads for a scoreless second as Worcester State maintained their 9-6 margin at the intermission.
Early in the third, the Engineers took the 12-9 edge on a four-yard plunge by Grasis with 11:42 on the clock. WPI took advantage of a muffed punt return that was recovered on the WSU eight yard-line.
With 1:53 remaining in the stanza, Lynch darted through the line and blocked a Lancer punt at the 15 that rolled through the back of the end zone for a safety to make it a 14-9 contest.
In the fourth quarter, the hosts were stopped twice on fourth down by the Engineer defense and on their last series, the Boynton Hillers took over on their own 32 with 8:30 left in the game.
WPI drove into Lancer territory, but were halted on fourth down by Driscoll's clutch interception in the end zone.
Viencek amassed 248 yards passing on the day for the Lancers in relief of injured junior Kevin Bumpus (Bridgewater, MA), completing 18-of-37 of his pass attempts. Bumpus, the reigning Division II/III Gold Helmet award winner, was 10-for-21 for 103 yards before exiting midway through the second quarter.
Hippert led all players with 183 receiving yards on eight catches while senior AJ Scerra (Marlboro, MA) hauled in a game-best 11 passes for 76 yards. Junior Dana Valentine (Roxbury, MA) added 61 yards on the ground to go with four receptions for 40 yards.
Senior Adam Straughn (Rockland, MA) paced all players with 12 tackles (10 solo) while classmate Nick Doria (Watertown, MA) chipped in with seven solo stops. Skerry added to his strong day up front for WSU with six tackles, including a pair of sacks.
Lynch led the defensive effort for WPI as he registered a team-best 10 tackles (eight solo) to go along with a pair of pass breakups and the blocked punt. Junior Robert Harasimowicz (Gardner, MA) added eight stops while Samuel was credited with a sack and half.
Grasis totaled 77 yards on 28 carries and the touchdown. Antonopoulos finished 15-for-27 for 152 yards and one score. Hamdan paced the receiving corps with six catches for 84 yards and a touchdown while senior Jake Konowitch (Northampton, MA) and junior Larry McGillicuddy (Stow, MA) both hauled in a pair of pass receptions.
Worcester State nearly enjoyed a 2-1 edge in totals yards (410-210) and almost doubled up the Engineers on first downs (23-12). WPI turned the ball over four times while the Lancers had only one possession-changing miscue. The Crimson and Gray did have a 32:38-27:22 bulge in time on the field.
Worcester State opens up MASCAC play next Friday night traveling to NCAA Division III Bridgewater State at 7 PM. WPI wraps up its non-conference slate by entertaining Norwich next Saturday at 1 o'clock.