CASTLETON, Vt. – The Castleton University football team dropped a heartbreaker Saturday afternoon on Homecoming and Family Weekend, falling 28-27 in overtime to Gallaudet in front of a season-high 3,387 fans at Dave Wolk Stadium.
Castleton scored a touchdown on the opening overtime possession, but failed to convert the point-after attempt. The Bison answered with a touchdown of their own and won the game with the extra point. Gallaudet improves to 1-3 on the year with a 1-0 mark in Eastern Collegiate Football Conference play, while Castleton falls to 0-5 and 0-1 in the ECFC. It was the first overtime game for Castleton since the season-opener in 2014.
Gallaudet amassed 434 yards of offense, 228 of which came on the ground. Castleton collected 371 yards with 310 through the air. Both teams collected more than 20 first downs. Gallaudet was penalized nine times for 135 yards, while Castleton was flagged six times for 52 yards.
Castleton's passing game came alive Saturday, as Jacob McCarthy threw the ball a career-high 41 times for 310 yards and three touchdowns. He completed 22 attempts with a pair of interceptions against his record. Anthony Martinez was on the receiving end of seven passes for 113 yards and two touchdowns, while Dylan Ellis hauled in six passes for 108 yards. It marked the first time in nearly two full years that Castleton had two 100-yard receivers in the same game. Jared Brockway caught four balls for 37 yards and a score. Matthew Hesford led the ground attack with 33 yards on seven carries with a touchdown.
Dustin Rock had a team-leading seven tackles, while Nick Reca led the way with five solo tackles and two interceptions for the defense, while Ethan Palazzetti had an interception of his own on the day. The team managed five tackles for a loss against the triple-option offense of Gallaudet and broke up four passes. Chris Rice had four total tackles, a quarterback hurry and a blocked field goal on the day.
Timel Benton threw for 165 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions, but added 58 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Austin Sliva-Wynne ran for 92 yards, while Cassmeir Hutchinson went for 58 yards and a score on the ground. Damonte Bray reeled in nine catches for 129 yards and two scores.
Rodney Burdford, Jr. had 16 total tackles on the day, racking up 12 assists and four solo tackles. Two of those tackles went for a loss, and he forced a fumble that was recovered by Mason Gooch. Gooch finished the day with nine tackles and one for a loss.
Gallaudet took an early lead, marching down the field on the opening drive for a 7-0 advantage. After a 21-yard completion to Sliva-Wynne to convert on third-and-long, Benton found Bray for a 26-yard touchdown.
Castleton answered two drives later, knotting the game at 7-7 after a nine-play, 84-yard drive. On third-and-12, McCarthy found Ellis for 23 yards and first down. Simon Davis Jr. followed that play with a 12-yard run before McCarthy connected with Martinez two plays later for 10 yards and another first down. After a holding call gave Castleton a first down at the 31, Davis Jr. carried again for five yards. On second-and-5, McCarthy found Martinez once more for a 26-yard touchdown and a 7-7 score.
The score held until late in the second quarter, when Castleton took a 13-7 lead. Starting with the ball near midfield, McCarthy completed a pass to Hesford for seven yards, before finding Brockway for 10 yards on the next play. After a 23-yard completion to Ellis down to the 12-yard line. Hesford toted the ball for a 12-yard score on the next play, giving Castleton its first lead of the day.
Coming out of the break leading 13-7, Castleton extended its lead on the first possession of the second half. Hesford carried four times for 14 yards to open the drive before Castleton got 15 yards on a pass interference penalty by Gallaudet. McCarthy found Martinez on third-and-6 for a first down and two plays later connected with Brockway for 13 yards down to the four-yard line. The duo hooked up again the very next play for a touchdown, making it 19-7. Castleton went for two and converted to make it 21-7 as McCarthy found Zachary Licata for the conversion.
Two drives later, Gallaudet halved the lead to make it 21-14. The Bison struck quickly, driving 74 yards in 2:37 on six plays. The drive began with a 22-yard rush by Sliva-Wynne, before Hutchinson broke off an 18-yard run of his own. Lance Wood then completed a 16-yard pass to Dawson Moder into the red zone. After an incompletion and a rush for no gain, Hutchinson broke off an 18-yard touchdown run on third down to draw the Bison within one score.
Castleton held the lead until late in the fourth quarter, when Gallaudet tied the score with a seven-play, 55-yard drive. The drive began with four rushes for a total of 21 yards. After an incompletion and rush for no gain, Benton snapped off a 34-yard run untouched into the end zone to level the score at 21-21.
Castleton got the ball back with just less than four minutes to play looking to put together a game-winning drive. The Spartans moved the ball down the field into the red zone in six plays before McCarthy found Martinez for what looked to be the go-ahead score. Castleton was flagged for illegal formation prior to the play, taking the touchdown off the board and backing the ball up to the 28-yard line. Castleton was again penalized on the next play for intentional grounding, pushing it back even further to the 35-yard line. McCarthy found Martinez for 11 yards on third-and-25, but a fourth-down shot at the end zone fell incomplete as Castleton turned it over on downs, sending the game to overtime.
Castleton got the ball first in overtime and scored on just its second play. After Devin Wollner rushed for no gain, Martinez reeled in a 25-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown, but Andy Kenosh's extra point missed wide left, giving Castleton a 27-21 edge for the time being.
The Bison gained 15 yards on their first play of overtime, before RJ Randle carried twice for one yard each time. On third-and-goal from the 8-yard line, Benton pitched the ball wide to Sliva-Wynne, who pulled up to pass on the trick play. Sliva-Wynne found Bray in the corner of the end zone all alone, tying the game at 27-27. Jack Gray knocked through the extra point, giving the Bison the narrow victory in overtime.
Castleton returns to action next Saturday at Maritime (N.Y.). Kick-off is slated for 2 p.m.