MIDDLETOWN, R.I. – The Salve Regina football team honored its graduating seniors with a 25-14 win over the United States Coast Guard Academy at Gaudet Field in New England Football Conference action, Saturday afternoon. The win for the Seahawks pushed its home winning streak to 14 games.
With the win, Salve Regina improved to 7-2 on the year and remained a perfect 6-0 in the conference while Coast Guard slips to 3-6 on the season and 3-3 in the NEFC.
The two teams took a 7-7 tie into halftime after a heavily contested defensive battle for the first 30 minutes. After the Bears forced a three-and-out on Salve Regina's first possession of the second half, Coast Guard started its first drive on Salve Regina's 45 yard-line after junior Benjamin Barrett's (West Greenwich, R.I.) 35 yard punt. Freshman Derek Victory's (Weston, Fla.) pass fell incomplete and a short two-yard run brought up a third-and-long for the Bears. Victory dropped back to pass and looked for a receiver in the middle of the field but instead, senior Joshua Burnett (Whitman, Mass.) picked the ball out of the air for his first interception of the game and returned it for 37 yards to the Coast Guard 34 yard line. After a penalty set up an even shorter field for Salve Regina, junior quarterback Steven Wilken (Ringwood, N.J.) kept it himself for a 29-yard run, his longest of the game, and the Seahawks second first down of the half. Senior Richie Edwards (Trumbull, Conn.) finished off the drive with five yards on three carries to get the ball into the end zone and give Salve Regina 13-7 lead.
Salve Regina forced a three-and-out on the Bears ensuing drive but a muffed punt return gave the ball right back to Coast Guard. The Seahawk defense held strong and did not allow a yard on the Bears next drive and a missed field goal kept the Seahawks up by six points, 13-7.
With just 1:19 left in the third, the Bears appeared to be marching down the field and after a Victory-junior Collis Brown (Kingwood, Texas) connection led to a CGA's first down on Salve Regina's 44 yard line, Burnett picked off his second pass of the quarter and returned it 17 yards to end the Bears' scoring threat.
Salve Regina turned the ball over on downs to begin the second half, but the Bears' following drive once again ended on a Salve Regina interception, this time a 92-yard pick-six from junior Erik Klein (Springfield, Pa.). Coast Guard looked like it was about to score with the ball on Salve Regina's four-yard line but Klein had another idea for the Bears' quarterback as he stepped in front of the intended receiver and ran almost the entire length of the field to push the Seahawk lead to 19-7.
The 92-yard return not only is the longest INT return in Salve Regina history, but also gives Klein the single-game record for most interception return yards.
The Seahawks were forced to punt on their next possession and after a bad snap led to an intentional grounding and the ball on Salve Regina's three-yard line, junior Jake Wawrzyniak (Sylvania, Ohio) ran in a four-yard touchdown to cut the Seahawk lead to 19-14 with just over four minutes left in the game.
On 3-and-10 on their own 34-yard line, junior Dan Buonocore (Mahwah, N.J.) carried the ball for just the second time in the game for 11 yards to pick up a first down for the Seahawks. The Seahawk offense went to Buonocore twice more for 18 yards on two carries. With his third run of the drive, the junior running back eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards for his career. On first-and-10, Wilken kept the ball and picked up five yards that set up a 32-yard touchdown run for Buonocore and pushed the Seahawk lead to 25-14.
The Bears picked up three more first downs in their final drive, but sophomore Hayden Stanton's (Wallingford, Conn.) second sack of the game helped keep the Bears from finding the end zone one last time and brought the score to its 25-14 final.
"A hard physical game will come down to turnovers an for us to get four interceptions with 160 yard in returns flipped the field in crucial times and led us to victory," remarked head coach Kevin Gilmartin following the victory.
Defensively, the Seahawks had career-days out of their inside linebacker sophomore Danny Ives (Madison, Conn.) and cornerback junior Phil Terio (Trumbull, Conn.) Both Ives and Terio racked up a career-best 13 tackles on the day, while Ives had 3.0 tackles for loss for five yards and Terio had 1.0 TFL for one yard. Terio tied his career best with three pass break ups.
Burnett had two interceptions while Klein and junior Matt Conroy (Philadelphia, Pa.) each picked off the CGA quarterback.
The Bears were led by junior Aaron Black (Edmond, Oka.) with 13 tackles on the day, including 11 solo, 0.5 sacks and 1.5 TFL for five yards.
Offensively, Victory threw for 164 yards on 25 completions and one touchdown pass. Brown was Victory's favorite target of the afternoon, catching eight passes for 114 yards. Wawrzyniak ran for 83 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown.
Wilken threw for 129 yards and ran for 53. Buonocore led the Seahawks with 60 yards rushing while Edwards ran in two scores for Salve Regina.
The Seahawks return to the field when they travel to Beverly, Mass. to face Endicott in what will be the NEFC Championship game next Saturday at 1 p.m. Coast Guard ends its season at home against MIT at 1 p.m.