Panthers defeat Seahawks in season-finale, 33-7

MIDDLETOWN, R.I. - Junior quarterback J.J. Brooks (Seabrook, N.H.) rushed for 108 yards and three touchdowns to lead Plymouth State University to a 33-7 win over Salve Regina University in New England Football Conference (NEFC) action Saturday afternoon at Gaudet Field in Middletown.


Junior Steve Campbell (Northborough, Mass.) and freshman Ty Long (Dover, N.H.) also recorded rushing touchdowns for the Panthers, who outgained the Seahawks 376-156 en route to their sixth-consecutive win over Salve Regina. With the win, the Panthers end the season at 8-2 (6-1 NEFC) while the Seahawks finish 4-6 (3-4 NEFC).


The Seahawks struggled to find their offensive rhythm all after as the Panthers defense bottled up senior QB Jeff St. Onge (Kingston, N.H.) - the conference's leader in both passing yards and total offense. The signal-caller finished the afternoon 6-of-15 for 33 yards and rushed for a team-high 50 yards and the team's only touchdown. Long finished with a game-high 119 yards for Plymouth State, which rushed for 364 yards and attempted only two pass attempts on the afternoon. Senior Jim Sestito (Foxborough, Mass.) led the defensive charge with eight tackles (six solo) - including 3.5 tackles for loss - and a pair of sacks.


"We were competitive with them on defense for eight out of every 10 plays," said Salve Regina head coach Chris Robertson. "They were picking up 10 yards, but using three downs to do it. They broke a couple of long plays on us, which hurt, and not having our long-snapper today (James Solimini) hurt us a few times. You can't make mistakes against a good football team like Plymouth State and expect to come out on top."


The two teams traded possessions in the first quarter before an 80-yard punt return by Long set up the Panthers first touchdown of the afternoon. Salve Regina senior running back Matt Wierzbicki (Wethersfield, Conn.) quick-kicked on fourth-and-14 down to the PSU 14, and Long's return gave the Panthers first-and-goal at the SRU six-yard line. Three plays Later, Brooks rushed in from a yard out to put the visitors on top 7-0.


On the Panthers next possession, a 55-yard run by Long put them in the red zone for the second time in the quarter. Brooks scampered in from six yards out on the ensuring play stretch the lead to 13-0. The PAT attempt was blocked by Salve Regina sophomore Anthony DePaolo (Southington, Conn.) - his first of two blocked PAT attempts on the afternoon. Brooks third touchdown of the half - a two-yard run with 3:56 left in the second quarter - capped an 11-play, 43-yard drive that ate up 6:29. Plymouth State held a 289-100 edge in total yards and held the Seahawks to just three first downs in the opening stanza.


Salve Regina took the ball to start the second half but again went three-and-out. Following a bad snap on the Seahawk punt attempt that resulted in a 19-yard loss, the Panthers offense went to work. Starting at the SRU 24, the Panthers covered 24 yards in six plays, capped off by a one-yard rush by Campbell to made the score 26-0 (blocked PAT by DePaolo).


St. Onge's 10th rushing touchdown of the year at 7:33 of the third capped a 10-play, 61-yard drive and cut the deficit to 26-7. He accounted for 39 rushing yards on the drive and was aided by a pass interference call on the Plymouth State secondary that put the ball inside the five-yard line. The Panthers answered right back with an 11-play, 59-yard drive of their own that was capped off by a 15-yard scoring run by Long with 52 ticks left on the clock in the third quarter.


Following the contest, the Seahawks honored 14 seniors who played their final home contest in the blue, white and green. "A game like today is tough on the seniors. You want to go out in style and on top," said Robertson. "This is the first class I have had for four years, and they have done a great job for me. I spoke to them after the game and reminded them to think about what they have done over the course of their four years, not just today. They have laid the foundation for a successful football program here."


Defensively for the Seahawks, senior Nolan McGarrity (Verona, N.J.) tallied a game-high 18 tackles (10 solo) and finishes his career with 265, which ranks second in Salve Regina history. Senior linebacker Brian Bernarducci (Pleasantville, N.Y.) recorded eight tackles (four solo) and finishes his career with 256 tackles, which is fourth all-time.


St. Onge, meanwhile, ends his career ranked first in both completions (467) and completion percentage (58.3 percent) at Salve Regina, and his 5,016 pass yards place him second in school history. Additionally, his 33 career passing touchdowns are third all-time, and his 21 rushing scores are fourth all-time. His favorite target over the years, senior Ben Hall (Conway, N.H.), graduates as just the third player in Salve Regina history to reach the 1,000-yard plateau (1,360), and his 126 receptions are also third all-time.