BEVERLY, Mass. -- Maine Maritime jumped out to 28-21 lead in the first half, before Endicott rallied with five unanswered scores in the second half to secure a 53-28 win in a New England Football Conference game Saturday. The Gulls improved to 2-0 NEFC, 3-2 overall, while the Mariners dropped to 0-2, 0-4.
Maine Maritime gain its 28-21 halftime lead thanks mostly to hard-nose running from senior fullback Billy Wetherbee and senior running back Ryan O'Neal. Wetherbee carried the ball 34 times for 171 yards and O'Neal broke off big runs and eclipsed the 100-yard mark with two touchdowns in the opening half. The Mariners finished with 366 yards rushing.
The Gulls saw sophomore running back Spencer Walsh accumulate 221 yards of total offense, 191 on the ground with two touchdowns and 30 yards receiving with another score, while junior quarterback Drew Frenette connected on 24-of-34 pass attempts for 324 yards and five touchdowns with one pick.
Frenette spread his passing yards around to eight different receivers but found sophomore Alex Matys for eight grabs, 92 yards, and three touchdowns. Four other receivers surpassed 40 yards through the air while Walsh and sophomore Jamison Craft both had receiving touchdowns.
The Mariners set the tone on the opening drive of the game.when O'Neal found a hole in the line for a 36-yard touchdown run just 2:47 into the game. The Gulls on their first possession moved down the field quickly but on a 1st-and-10 play on the Mariner 10-yard line, Frenette was picked off by freshman safety Cody Chapman to end Endicott's early momentum. The turnover, however, would not hurt Endicott as a forced fumble by Gulls freshman defensive end Craig Anderson and recover by Luke Somers gave the ball right back to the Blue and Green.
Later in the first quarter, Endicott would cough up the ball in Maine Maritime territory for a second time when Christopher Ford caused a Walsh fumble which was recovered by Chapman. Maine Maritime rushed for eight straight plays including third down conversions on the Endicott 25 and inside the 10-yard line which led to O'Neal's second touchdown of the game to make it 14-0.
At the start of the second quarter for the Gulls, already down to the Maine Maritime 12-yard line, Frenette found Matys on a 12-yard scoring strike to put the Gulls on the board, 14-7.
The Mariners answered on the ensuing drive when O'Neal's 41-yard run set up Maine Maritime's third score of the game. Following O'Neal's run, Wetherbee fumbled the ball at the one yard line and Justin Lovely jumped on the loose ball in the endzone with 11:58 left in the first half.
Frenette connected with Matys on a 21-yard route to make it 21-14, Maine Maritime fired back with a 7:33 drive that ended in a Michael Fahey touchdown pass to Lovely to go back up by two touchdowns, 28-14 with 2:29 left before the break.
Frenette brought the Gulls right back down the field for another score to go into halftime trailing 28-21.
In the second half, Endicott pulled to within one point after Matys third touchdown of the game and the extra-point sailed wide left. The Gulls defense produced a big turnover inside their own 10-yard line on the next Maine Maritime when Nick Almeida forced a Wetherbee fumble which was picked up by Eric Dwinell.
Endicott scored a touchdown off that turnover when Walsh fought through the Mariner defense for an 11-yard touchdown with 2:30 remaining in the third quarter. With that score, the Blue and Green held their first lead of the game at 33-28.
Endicott's defense stopped Maine Maritime on three downs to force a punt which led to a highlight reel return for Jake Pelletier who found open space down the sideline for a 72-yard score to make it 40-28.
In the fourth quarter, Endicott tacked 13 more points on a 30-yard touchdown pass, Frenette's fifth of the game, to Walsh and a 29-yard rushing touchdown for Walsh with 4:38 left in the game.
The Mariners are idle net week and return to action Oct. 19, 1:30 p.m., at Coast Guard.