As the old saying goes, “Everything you can do, I can do better.” On Saturday afternoon, the Springfield College football team did just that. For every punch that Worcester Polytechnic Institute threw, Springfield responded with a punch of their own, finishing with a devastating haymaker to knock down the Engineers for good, 35-21.
Jonathan Marrero led the Springfield offense with 131 yards on 17 carries, while Christian Rodriguez added 60 yards on six carries.
Pat O’Connor led the Pride defense with seven tackles, while Sam Weiss and Corey Kaiser each added six tackles.
“It’s a great way for the seniors to end,” said head coach Mike DeLong. “The defense made some great plays. There’s a number of guys playing banged up and hurt, so they had a great effort.”
The Pride, who have now reeled off three straight wins, continued where they left off last week at RPI, using a pair of first quarter scores to take the early lead.
After WPI missed a field goal attempt on the opening drive, the Engineers’ defense kept the Pride offense in check, forcing a punt. On the punt, the ball was coughed up on the return by WPI, giving the Pride the ball on the Engineers’ 21-yard line.
Springfield drew first blood when Rodriguez took the option pitch around the right end, powering through the pylon to put the Pride ahead.
It took Springfield very little time to add to the lead. After the defense forced a three-and-out, Marrero took off for a 58-yard score, gashing the Engineers’ defense up the middle, putting Springfield up 14-0.
The score would remain the same until the second quarter, when WPI used a trick play to respond with their first punch of the bout. Facing third-and-five from the Pride’s six-yard line, WPI quarterback John Antonopoulos turned around and handed the ball off. The ball was then pitched to Brian Marsh, who sprinted around the right end and tossed the ball to a wide-open Antonopoulos in the end zone.
The momentum would be short-lived however, because on the ensuing possession, Joe Festo took the kick 95 yards untouched for a touchdown, restoring the Pride’s 14-point lead. WPI would cut the lead to 21-14 when Antonopoulos hit Ehab Hamdan from 19-yards out to pull within seven before the half.
Both defenses held strong in the second half before Joe Knaub forced a fumble inside the WPI 20-yard line, recovered by Kashden Naraine. On the play, Antonopoulos rolled out to his right and began running down the field. Knaub sprinted from the backside untouched, crashing into Antonopoulos and prying the ball free.
Springfield took advantage of the turnover when Louis Fenaroli powered through defenders, bowling in for a 14-yard touchdown.
WPI answered on the first possession of the fourth quarter, marching 54 yards on 13 plays, scoring on a one-yard run from Antonopoulos.
The Engineers threatened to tie the score at 21 when they took a drive inside the red zone. After a pair of incompletions and a short gain brought up fourth-and-long, Antonopoulos looked to Hamdan in the back corner of the end zone. Hamdan appeared to reel the ball in, but the Springfield secondary was able to knock him out of bounds before he could get a foot down.
Springfield responded with their final haymaker on the following drive. After the Pride couldn’t manage a first down on their first two plays, they faced third-and-five from their own 21-yard line. After Marrero tossed the ball back, James Poggio took a reverse hand-off around the right end for a 79-yard, game-clinching score.
WPI did threaten on the following possession, getting one last attempt to score, but a powerful hit from Weiss knocked the ball out of Hamdan’s hands.
“The defense made some great plays,” DeLong said. “We were a little sporadic on both sides of the ball, but when they had to make a play, they stepped up and made it.”
The Pride were able to win their second straight senior game, and ninth in the last 10 years, sending the seniors off on a high note.
“This is a tough group [of seniors],” said DeLong. “Last night at the burning of the shoe was pretty emotional for them, but this is a tough group. It’s hard to be a four-year player. They are a tight-knit group.”
The Pride await word about a possible bowl bid on Monday morning. Springfield defeated Alfred University last season in an ECAC Northeast Bowl Championship game.