Defense Keys Stonehill Past Merrimack, 22-20

Senior Jareed Gaines paced the Stonehill defense with a game-high 11 tackles, three pass breakups and a forced fumble. (PHOTO BY Andrew Katsampes)

Skyhawks hold Division II's third-ranked offense nearly 200 yards and 16 points under average to notch Senior Day victory

EASTON, Mass. (October 13, 2012) – Stonehill College held Merrimack College nearly 200 yards and 16 points under its season average in posting its third-straight home victory with a 22-20 triumph in a key Northeast-10 Conference football clash on Senior Day at Timothy J. Coughlin Memorial Field at W.B. Mason Stadium this afternoon.

Stonehill out-gained Merrimack 391 to 343 for total offense as the Skyhawks defense limited a Warriors offense that was averaging a Northeast-10 best 520 yards per game (3rd nationally) and 6.1 yards per play, while ranking second in the Conference (26th nationally) with 36.6 points per game. Merrimack posted just 4.2 yards per play (1.5 rushing), were limited to 123 total yards and six points in the second half, and finished with just 31 yards on the ground and 312 passing. The Stonehill defense, which led the NE-10 (18th nationally) in takeaways, forced four more turnovers this afternoon with an interception and three fumble recoveries, while also adding four stops on fourth down and three sacks.

Senior Jareed Gaines (Lumberton, N.J./Rancocas Valley) led the way with his sixth double-figure tackle performance of the year with a game-high 11 stops (nine solo), three pass breakups and a forced fumble. He moved into third place on Stonehill's career tackles list with 291 with today's total and into a tie for fifth all-time with 152 solo tackles, while his seven career forced fumbles are tied for second all-time (one shy of the school record) and his 18 career pass breakups are good for sixth all-time.

Freshman Colin Markus posted a season-high 145 all-purpose yards with his first career touchdown to pace the offense (PHOTO BY Andrew Katsampes)

Senior Ray Bass (Canton, Mass./Canton) added ten tackles (six solo) and a fumble recovery, while classmate Fabrice Dragon (Stoughton, Mass./Cardinal Spellman) contributed four stops (two solo) with 1.5 sacks for a loss of 16 yards, a forced fumble and quarterback hurry. Sophomore Sterry Codrington (Freehold, N.J./Freehold Boro) finished with eight tackles (six solo) and a breakup, while junior Tim Bennett (Fillmore, Calif./Saint Bonaventure) chipped in six stops (five solo), including 1.0 for a loss of four yards, an interception and pass breakup.

Stonehill's 391 yards of total offense came with 234 passing and 157 rushing as the Skyhawks averaged 5.4 yards per play and posted 31:53 time of possession, including 10:21 in the fourth quarter. Freshman Colin Markus (Monroe, Conn./Masuk) broke out with a season and game-high 145 all-purpose yards as he rushed the ball four times for a season-best 67 yards and a touchdown to go with two receptions for a season and team-high 78 yards.

Junior Logan Meyer (Ventura, Calif./Saint Bonaventure) was an efficient 21-for-34 passing for 234 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions, getting sacked just once. Senior Jermetrius Troy (Mattapan, Mass./Tilton School) rushed the ball 20 times for 74 yards, while classmate John Gomes (Hyannis, Mass./Barnstable) caught five passes for 52 yards and a score.

Freshman Stephen Grzywacz (Manchester, N.H./Manchester Central) delivered three field goals of 20, 26 and 24 yards, the last of which proved to be the game winner with 5:36 remaining. He also averaged 52.8 yards on six kickoffs.

Senior Joe Clancy (Newburyport, Mass.) completed 39-of-61 passes for 312 yards and a touchdown to go with a rushing score as well, but was intercepted and fumbled once and sacked three times. Senior Isaiah Voegeli (Hyannis, Mass.), who entered the game averaging over 136 yards per game, caught a game-high ten passes for 84 yards and a touchdown. Senior Jimon Hill (North Chicago, Ill.) added ten receptions for 80 yards to go with nine rushes for 14 yards and a touchdown.

Senior Michael Jones (Chicago, Ill.) led the Merrimack defense with ten tackles (seven solo), while junior Matt Tripicchio (Lake Zurich, Ill.) added seven stops, including 3.5 for a loss of 15 yards, and 1.0 sacks for a loss of nine.

Junior Logan Meyer engineered the offense by completing 21-of-34 passes for 234 yards and a touchdown. (PHOTO BY Andrew Katsampes)

Stonehill jumped out to a 10-0 lead with scores on its first two drives, marching the opening possession to the Merrimack three yard line before settling for a 20 yard Grzywacz field goal 4:33 into the contest. Troy and Markus contributed back to back 29 and 25 yard runs, respectively, to move the ball from the Stonehill 43 to the Merrimack three before the drive stalled.

Stonehill forced a Merrimack three and out on its first offensive possession and then used six plays over 2:16 to move the ball 72 yards, capped by a 42 yard touchdown run by Markus with 6:44 left in the opening quarter.

Merrimack responded with a 16 play, 78 yard scoring drive over 5:04 as Clancy hitting Voegeli for a five yard touchdown pass with 1:40 left to draw within 10-8 after Michael Romanella (Bound Brook, N.J.) connected with sophomore Zach Ingalls (Westford, Mass.) for a two-point conversion.

Stonehill extended its lead with a 26 yard Grzywacz field goal at the end of an eight play, 66 yard drive to the Merrimack nine. Markus set up that score with a 60 yard catch and run from Meyer on third and nine from the Skyhawks 37 to the Warriors three. Merrimack took its first lead on the following possession with Hill capping a nine play, 55 yard drive over 3:04, with a two yard scoring plunge with 11:05 left in the half.

Stonehill forced Merrimack off the field after three plays on the opening possession of the second half and then forged back in front when Meyer hit Gomes for a 15 yard touchdown pass in the back of the end zone with 8:56 to go in the third. Markus had a key 18 yard reception on third and nine from the Stonehill 42 to keep the drive going that took 11 plays and 4:18 to go 59 yards.

Merrimack quickly regained the lead on the following drive with Clancy going straight up the middle for a 27 yard touchdown run on first and ten. Two attempts at the two point conversion, due to a Stonehill penalty, came up empty limiting the lead to 20-19 with 6:43 left in the third.

Stonehill took advantage of Clancy's fumble in Merrimack territory that was recovered by Bass on the Warriors 14, for the final go-ahead score. The Skyhawks moved to the Merrimack five and then Grzywacz drilled his third field goal of the afternoon from 24 yards out with 5:36 remaining.

Merrimack turned the ball over at the Stonehill 33 on its next possession as Gaines forced the ball loose from senior Steve Serwon (Amesbury, Mass.) after a 16 yard catch on fourth and 17. The Warriors regained the fumble past the first down marker, but under rule a fumble on fourth down must be recovered by the fumbling player for the offense.

Stonehill regained possession with 2:08 to play and clinched the victory with a 27 yard catch on third and seven from its own 36.

Stonehill (4-3, 4-2 NE-10) will have a short turnaround as it hosts No. 5 University of New Haven on Thursday night as part of the NCAA Division II Game of the Week package on CBS Sports Network at 8 p.m. Merrimack (3-3, 2-3 NE-10) hosts Saint Anselm College next Saturday at 1 p.m.

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