BIDDEFORD, Maine – The Castleton University football team fell behind early and never rebounded, falling to the University of New England by a final score of 31-21 in a non-conference matchup at Blue Storm Stadium.
The Spartans (0-3) amassed 26 first downs on the day to UNE's 21, but the Nor'easters (2-1) racked up 500 yards of offense—and average of 7.4 yards per play—en route to the win. Castleton tallied 416 yards of offense, 233 of which came on the ground, but had five costly turnovers that UNE took advantage of. The Nor'easters notched 14 points off turnovers, while Castleton managed seven points off three UNE turnovers.
Devin Wollner had a big day running the ball, amassing 141 yards on 20 carries with a touchdown. Simon Davis Jr. added 83 yards and a touchdown while Matthew Hesford converted one of his three carries for a score. Anthony Martinez had a team-high 43 receiving yards on two catches, while Jared Brockway and Dylan Ellis reeled in three catches each. Jacob McCarthy completed 16-of-31 passes for 183 yards, but threw a pair of interceptions in the loss.
Seth Gewanter piled up 11 tackles on defense, followed by Ethan Palazzetti's nine stops on the day. Palazzetti also forced a fumble and had an interception in the contest. The defense had six tackles for a loss, two of which came from Zak Pollicino. Pollicino and Dustin Rock each had fumble recoveries in the contest.
Brian Peters helped carry the Nor'easter offense behind 353 yards passing and three touchdowns. He completed 16-of-25 passes and threw an interception for UNE. Cobey Johnson was on the receiving end of four passes for 141 yards and a touchdown, with Jack Mahoney catching two passes for 40 yards and two scores. Mahoney also added 74 yards rushing on 18 carries. Devon Charles ran for 54 yards and a touchdown. Kicker Kevin Heintz accounted for seven total points on the day, making each of his four extra points in addition to an opening-drive field goal.
Joe Kucky had eight tackles for the UNE defense, with DJ James added seven tackles and an interception. Will Peters had a pair of tackled for a loss, including a sack, while Nick Scarfo chipped in with a sack and a forced fumble.
The Nor'easters jumped out to an early lead and never looked back, going ahead 10-0 after the opening quarter. They marched the ball down the field on the game's opening drive, working their way into the red zone in just seven plays. Castleton's defense buckled down, forcing a 23-yard field-goal attempt that Heintz knocked through the uprights to give his team a 3-0 lead.
After being pinned deep by a Castleton punt, UNE stuck quickly to extend its lead. Peters picked up four yards on first down, before Parker Belsky was stuffed for no gain on the next play. Facing a 3rd-and-6, Peters connected with Johnson for 89 yards to the Castleton 6-yard line, setting up a 1st-and-goal. Mahoney appeared to have the first touchdown of the game on a six-yard carry, but the play was called back due to holding. Peters found Mahoney on the next play for a 16-yard touchdown catch and a 10-0 lead for UNE.
Castleton answered in a big way, marching down the field to cut the lead to 10-7 on the next drive. The Spartans leaned on Wollner in the process, as the running back carried seven times in 10 plays for 51 yards on the drive, culminating in a one-yard touchdown run.
The defense buckled down for Castleton on the next Nor'easter drive, as the Spartans forced a three-and-out and a punt. The punt team mishandled the play, however, allowing UNE to recover the ball with a short field ahead of it. The defense again went to work, however, forcing a turnover on downs by making a goal-line stand at the one-yard line.
The offense came up empty twice more before UNE wore down the defense at the end of the half. Starting at their own 20, the Nor'easters moved the ball down the field with three straight 10-plus-yard completions by Peters, capped by a 23-yard connection with Peyton Phillips. After a false start by UNE backed it up to the 34-yard line, Peters found Johnson for 34 yards and a score to put the home side ahead, 17-7, with 1:00 to play in the half.
The Spartans went into hurry-up mode, looking for one final score before the break. After a first-down incompletion, Wollner ripped off a 17-yard run, followed by an 18-yard scamper to midfield. Facing 4th-and-13, McCarthy connected with Martinez for 33 yards for a first down to the four-yard line. After an incompletion, Andy Kenosh came on to attempt a 21-yarder to end the half. His kick was blocked, ending the half with the Spartans down 17-7.
Castleton came out of the locker room ready to go in the second half, using 11 plays to cover 66 yards before finding the end zone and making it 17-14. The Spartans methodically worked their way down the field before Davis Jr. found paydirt on a five-yard score.
Following a McCarthy interception on Castleton's next drive, UNE again had stellar field position. Peters was sacked on the first play of the drive before throwing an incompletion, but on 3rd-and-15 he found Mahoney for the second time on a 24-yard touchdown to put the Nor'easters ahead 24-14. The lead was extended to 31-14 just moments later, when Castleton muffed the ensuing kick-off to give the ball back at the 19-yard line. After a pass interference penalty put the ball at the four, Charles carried twice for the score to put UNE ahead by three scores late in the third quarter.
Castleton found the end zone again in the final minutes of the game, taking advantage of a UNE fumble. The Spartans opened the drive in the red zone at the 15-yard line, and moved up to the two-yard line on a pass interference call on the defense. Hesford punched it in from there, becoming the third touchdown scorer on the day and making it 31-21. Neither team was able to find the end zone again over the final five minutes.
Castleton returns to action next Saturday, September 28, when it hosts Norwich in the annual Maple Sap Bucket Game at Dave Wolk Stadium. Kick-off is slated for 3 p.m.