Against Bridgewater State it was Austin Bateman. Last week it was Mike Davis. This week, the biggest running performance belonged to senior fullback Joel Altavesta as his 214 yards and three touchdowns paced the Springfield College (3-1, 1-0 Liberty League) offense on its way to a 44-14 win over Liberty League foe Rochester (1-2, 0-1).
Right off the bat it was clear that something special was brewing in No. 37. On the first play of the game, Altavesta went 55 yards up the middle before being dragged down on the Rochester 20 yard line. The drive would eventually stall, leading to Ricky Peacock field goal, but the groundwork for a great day had been laid
Altavesta, who took over for Brodie Quinn after an injury in week 2, has been perfect or the Pride in that inside-punch role in their triple option attack. With Davis coming off a big game last week, it is possible that the Yellow Jackets simply weren’t ready for Altavesta.
Something else they probably weren’t ready for was any sort of passing attack from Springfield. After sophomore quarterback Rob Merckling overthrew his first three passes of the day — including two in the endzone — he dialed in a perfect ball for junior wide out James Poggio for a 46-yard touchdown pass.
“[Poggio] is a great athlete for us so it was nice to see him get the catches,” said coach Mike DeLong. “What was even better is that he was going to get them. Not every pass is perfect and he did a great job of going to get the ball.”
Rochester featured a passing attack of their own, led by junior quarterback Dean Kennedy. Completing 65.2 percent of his passes coming into the game, Kennedy was held in check by the Pride’s defense and held to just 16-of-33 passing for 192 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
One interception was a particularly flukely play in which freshman defensive lineman Daniel King tipped Kennedy’s pass at the line, deflecting it up in the air where it floated before being snatched by fellow freshman lineman Kashden Naraine. Naraine was a machine for the Pride on the day, adding a fumble recovery and four tackles to the interception.
“Naraine is a freshman, he’s just a puppy,” said DeLong. “But he’s playing hard and good things happen when you do that.”
With all of the positives flying around Stagg Field on Saturday, the Pride did endure a scary moment in the third quarter when Merckling got his leg twisted up in a pile and remained on the ground for several minutes. Merckling was brought to the hospital and the status of his injury is currently unknown.
On his way off the field, Merckling yelled at his teammates to keep it going. Three plays later, Louis Fenaroli punched in the touchdown that gave Springfield a 24-7 lead.
Replacing Merckling was freshman Jonathan Marerro, the third string quarterback. Typically used in hail-mary situations, Marerro was called upon for his first real game experience on Saturday.
“My first thought was just hoping Rob was OK,” said the freshman from Brighton, Mass. “After that I knew I had a job to do so I just went out and did it.”
And do that job he would. Making some very impressive athletic plays — including a crazy blind-side block on a Davis run — Marrero finished the game with six carries for 43 yards on the ground as well as 2-for-3 passing for 31 yards and a touchdown.
The second-ranked rushing offense in the country coming into the game, Springfield built upon their 361 yards-per-game average with an impressive 416 yards.
The Pride return to the field next week but will be on the road against Hobart in their second Liberty League game.