WORCESTER, Mass. – The Salve Regina University football team overcame a 21-7 deficit to defeat Worcester State University 27-21 in non-conference action at Coughlin Field.
Salve Regina improves to 1-0 with the season-opening victory while the Lancers fall to 0-1.
The Lancers were the first team to get on the board on the afternoon, taking advantage of an interception from junior Eddy Boamah(Worcester, Mass.) that set them up right at midfield. Seven plays after Boamah's pick, senior Noah Brum (Honolulu, Hawaii) connected with tight end Jacob Maher (Marshfield, Mass.) for the score to put the hosts on top 6-0.
The lead was short lived however, as the Seahawks responded to Worcester's opening score with a touchdown drive of their own. Two plays after a 28-yard touchdown run from Salve's Joey Mauriello (Colts Neck, N.J.) came off the board on a holding penalty, quarterback Jake Kelleher (Hopkinton, Mass.) completed a 19-yard touchdown pass to Brendan Nunes (Attleboro, Mass.), putting the Seahawks up by a score of 7-6.
With the Seahawks threatening to add to their lead early in the second quarter, Boamah came up with another huge interception, this one of the highlight reel variety. With the Seahawks in possession on the 23-yard line of Worcester State, Kelleher threw up a lofted pass in Boamah's direction. Both defender and receiver went up for the ball at the seven-yard line, but it was Boamah who came down with the one-handed interception to end the Salve Regina threat and give the ball back to the Worcester offense.
Just as they had in the previous quarter, the Lancers made sure to capitalize on Boamah's big play. Aided by a 69-yard catch and run by freshman Austin Nunn(Bellingham, Mass.), the Lancers needed just eight plays and 2:05 to go 93 yards for the score. The touchdown drive was capped by an impressive, twisting 10-yard reception by senior Cam Charette (Fairhaven, Mass.), giving the Lancers a 13-7 lead after a Noah Hwang (Brooklyn, N.Y.) extra point.
With the clock winding down in the second quarter, the Lancers put their impeccable starting field position to good use to go up by two scores. With the Seahawks punting from deep in their own territory, a strong Worcester State rush forced a muffed kick, which then bounced backwards over 10 yards before going out of bounds at the Salve Regina 29-yard line. From there, it would take the Lancers only three plays to find paydirt, as Brum again found Maher for a 25-yard score. Following a successful two-point attempt, Worcester State jumped out to a 21-7 advantage with 1:33 remaining until halftime, and appeared to have all the momentum.
Kelleher and the Seahawks refused to go to the locker room quietly however, as the quarterback led his offense down the field for a quick touchdown in response. With 25 seconds showing on the clock, Kelleher found Ryan Lawton (Washington Township, N.J.) in the end zone to cut the deficit to 21-14 heading to the break.
Much of the second half was played like a chess match in the second half, as neither team was able to take control of the ballgame. With the Lancers still holding a narrow 21-14 advantage and under five minutes to play, Salve's Drew Balestrieri (Lynnfield, Mass.) came up with a huge interception, setting his team up in glorious field position to tie the game. The Seahawks would need just 39 yards to tie the score, and they did just that, as Kelleher completed a 21-yard pass to Danny Hoffman (Trumbull, Conn.) to tie the game up with 3:11 showing on the clock.
After a three-and-out on the resulting possession, Worcester State was forced to punt from their own 25-yard line. The snap was low however, and Charette's attempted punt was blocked by a swarm of Seahawks. The ball fluttered down toward the Lancer goal line before it was scooped up by Salve's Ryan Farrell (Cumberland, R.I.) and carried into the end zone for a back-breaking six points. The extra point was missed, making the score 27-21 with 2:12 to play, but the Lancers could do nothing to make the Seahawks regret it, and the visitors walked away with the come-from-behind victory.
Both Brum and Kelleher threw three touchdowns and three interceptions on the afternoon, with Brum going 24-for-40 with 264 pass yards and Kelleher going 15-for-34 for 175 yards. Kelleher was also effective running the ball on the afternoon, rushing for 73 yards on 11 attempts.
Charette led all players on the day with seven receptions, going for 60 yards and the one touchdown. Salve Regina's Ronnie Martin (Foxboro, Mass.) was effective on the ground for the visitors, rushing for 104 yards on 21 carries.
Defensively, the Lancers saw a handful of quality performances Saturday. Boamah and AJ Byard (Lowell, Mass.) both pulled down a pair of interceptions, while Mike Quinn (Sutton, Mass.) was a man possessed from the linebacker position, making 14 tackles (10 solo), as well as blocking a punt.
Despite out-gaining the Seahawks through the air by a margin of 268-198, the Lancers defense struggled to stop Salve's strong rush game, as the visitors finished with a 415-368 edge in total yardage. Salve Regina out-rushed Worcester State 217-100, and recorded 24 first downs to just 12 by the Lancers.
Worcester State returns to the field on Saturday when they make the short trip to Becker for a noon kickoff. The same day, Salve Regina will travel to New Jersey to take on Montclair State.