BEVERLY, Mass. – In a matchup of conference unbeatens to decide who would be crowned the 2013 NEFC champions and winners of the automatic bid into the NCAA Division III Tournament, the Endicott football team shutout Salve Regina 24-0 to capture its second NEFC title in four years in front of their home crowd at Endicott Stadium.
The Gulls (8-2, 7-0 NEFC) were carried by a stifling effort from the defense which held the Seahawks to 325 total yards of offense and put up countless defensive stands, limiting the opposition to a 23.5% (4-of-17) success rate on third down and just one conversion in five attempts on fourth down.
That successful conversion was a fake punt on Salve Regina's (7-3; 6-1 NEFC) second possession of the game. Seahawk punter Benjamin Barrett (West Greenwich, R.I.) "sold" a bad snap which actually went to short blocker Jiyon Ruffin (Morristown, N.J.) who managed to find Barrett with a pass while in the grasp of would-be Gulls' tacklers. The first 10 possessions of the game ended in punts.
Endicott, with the automatic qualifying bid into the national tournament in hand, will now wait to see who it play in the opening round of the NCAA Division III Tournament. The NCAA Selection Show for the tournament will be held on Sunday, November 17 at 6 p.m. and be viewed at the following page on NCAA.com:
After an uninspiring performance on offense by both teams in the first half, two quarters that saw just three points put on the board on a 27-yard field goal by Endicott senior kicker Dylan Rushe (Palos Verdes, Calif.), the Gulls came out in the second half with 21 unanswered points. Junior quarterback Drew Frenette (New Bedford, Mass.) got on the same page as his receivers, after completing just 5-of-18 passes for 60 yards in the first half, and finished the game with 250 yards through the air and three touchdowns, two of which went to his top target, sophomore Alec Matys (Woburn, Mass.).
Frenette first hit junior Nate Lewis (Acushnet, Mass.) for a 44-yard touchdown completion at the 9:25 mark of the third quarter to put Endicott ahead 10-0. Lewis would lead the team in receiving yards, piling up a career-high 90 yards on four catches in the championship game.
After a three-and-out for the Salve Regina offense, the Gulls took over on their own 38-yard line and drove down the field 62 yards on seven plays, capped off by a Matys 18-yard touchdown to go up by 17. The Gulls defense forced another short possession for the Seahawks on their next drive and began yet another drive to the end zone starting deep in their own territory. Endicott took advantage of a Seahawks personal foul to extend their drive when facing fourth down and found the end zone on a 20-yard completion, Frenette to Matys, with 1:40 remaining in the third quarter.
Needing quality field position and positive yards to try and get back in the game, Salve Regina punted once and turned the ball over on downs twice in the fourth quarter. The Seahawks were pinned inside their own 20-yard line twice in the quarter and were forced to start deep inside their own territory seven times throughout the game as Rushe placed seven of his nine punts inside the 20.
On their final drive, Salve Regina got down to the Gulls 20-yard line but time expired on the clock as Endicott won the 2013 NEFC Championship, 24-0.
The Gulls relied upon their running game throughout the day as sophomore Spencer Walsh (Malden, Mass.) rushed 37 times for 118 yards with Frenette adding timely runs for another 30 yards on the ground.
Defensively, Endicott freshman Craig Anderson (Franklin, Mass.) led the team with 10 tackles, 1.5 of which were for a loss, including a sack for nine yards on Seahawks quarterback Steven Wilken (Ringwood, N.J.). Senior linebacker Nick Kozlowski (Beverly, Mass.) added nine tackles, five of which were solo, with 1.5 tackles for a loss. Seniors Marcell Cooper (Dorchester, Mass.) and Kevin Pressey (Fairfield, Maine) as well as sophomore Marjan Solomon (Waltham, Mass.) all recorded sacks in the win.
Endicott's defensive backfield forced a 17-for-37 day under center for Wilken as the quarterback was picked off twice by senior safety Jason Silva (Palatine, Ill.). Seven total break ups were recorded by Endicott defenders, three from junior Jake Cox (Wrentham, Mass.), two from Silva, and one apiece for Davas Wright (Fall River, Mass.) and Andrew Lawson (Framingham, Mass.).
Wilken finished with 214 yards passing and 59 yards rushing. He connected with leading receiving, junior Matthew Traynor (Secaucus, N.J.) for seven receptions and 98 yards and tailback Dan Buonocore (Mahwah, N.J.) for another 41 yards on six catches.
On defense, the Seahawks were led by sophomore Danny Ives (Madison, Conn.) who had 12 tackles, eight of which were solo, with a break up and a hurry. Erik Klein (Springfield, Pa.) and Joshua Burnett (Whitman, Mass.) both finished with double-digit tackles with 12 and 11, respectively. Six different players recorded a pass break up including junior Troy Smith (Madison, Conn.) who also had eight tackles in the loss.
Salve Regina, suffering its first shutout since 2007 (21-0 at home against Plymouth State), awaits a bid to an ECAC Bowl Championship to be announced on Monday.
"Defense came out and played well, offense did not have a good day," remarked first-year head coach Kevin Gilmartin. "It was a bad day to have a bad day. You can't do that against good teams. Little passes that we just missed, little holes that we just missed, and all of a sudden things change. Ball is (loose) on the ground and we don't get it. Things could have changed in a big way. Very disappointing, but at the same time hopefully we can get one more game and go out on a positive note."