CASTLETON, Vt. – In a back-and-forth affair through continuous wet weather, Castleton University scored late in the fourth quarter to pull ahead and then stopped SUNY Maritime on a key fourth-down play to defeat the Privateers, 32-31, Saturday afternoon in an Eastern Collegiate Football Conference contest at Spartan Stadium.
Down 31-26 with 10 minutes remaining in regulation, the Spartans took over on their own 20-yard-line and marched down the field, starting with an 11-yard pass from Mitchell Caron to Bayley Haskin that also featured a 15-yard Privateer facemask penalty.
Later in the drive, Caron found Haskin again for 13 yards, and then Caron completed a pass to Anthony Porcelli for 12 yards to set up first-and-goal at the Maritime four-yard-line. Caron handed off to Corey Brimmer three times, with Brimmer finding the end zone on the third carry for his career-high third touchdown of the game.
Maritime (4-3, 2-2 ECFC) took over on its own 35-yard-line with just over four minutes left in the fourth quarter and moved into Spartan territory on a 13-yard-run by Severino Torelli. The Castleton defense buckled down, but an offside penalty helped the Privateers get close to another first down. On 4th-and-2 from the Castleton 34, Torelli was stopped for a loss of one yard by Bubba Collins and Wyatt Prue, the eighth tackle for a loss by the Spartans.
The game started with a special teams score, as Maritime's Matt Mavrovich fumbled the opening kickoff, followed by Castleton's Nate Decker grabbing the ball at the Maritime 40-yard-line and returning it for a touchdown. The Privateers struck right back, putting together an 11-play, 67-yard drive, culminating with a seven-yard touchdown run by Torelli to tie the game at 7-7.
The Spartans put together a 16-play, 75-yard drive on their first offensive possession, earning six first downs along the way. Caron scored his fourth rushing touchdown of the season on a keeper from the Maritime one-yard-line, putting Castleton back on top, 14-7, with less than five minutes left in the first quarter.
Midway through the second quarter, Caron was intercepted at midfield by Mavrovich, who returned it to the Castleton 32-yard-line. Brett McKinney would punch it in from two yards out to create another tie at 14-14. After Caron was intercepted by Eric Wallace on the Spartans' next possession, Maritime quarterback Joseph Butterworth found Nick Fischetti for a 15-yard touchdown pass, giving the Privateers a 21-14 advantage.
Castleton put together another significant drive late in the first half, going 73 yards on 10 plays. With 23 seconds remaining before halftime, Brimmer scored on a six-yard run, but Ryan Payne missed the extra point, keeping the Spartans behind the Privateers by one at halftime, 21-20.
Maritime would strike first in the third quarter, as the Butterworth-Fischetti connection worked again, this time for a 10-yard touchdown pass, and Matthew Murphy's extra point would give the Privateers a 28-20 lead.
After a Maritime punt, Caron started the ensuing drive with a 19-yard pass to Porcelli, and then Brimmer broke off a 23-yard run to advance the ball to the Maritime 12-yard-line. Brimmer would punch it in from four yards out to cut the Privateer lead to two, but the Spartans could not convert on the two-point attempt to tie the game.
The Privateers held the ball through the end of the third quarter into the fourth quarter, extending their lead back to five at 31-26 on a 40-yard field goal by Murphy. The teams exchanged punts before Castleton embarked on the eventual game-winning drive.
Castleton earned a season-high 24 first downs during the game, compiling 324 total yards (75 rushing, 249 passing). Brimmer carried the ball 28 times for 80 yards and three touchdowns. Caron completed 25-of-50 passes for 249 yards, with Ryan Barry earning seven receptions for 63 yards and Porcelli collecting 81 receiving yards on just four catches.
Defensively, Sha'ron Schmidt-Bilowith set a new Castleton single-game record with five tackles for a loss, including two sacks. Jakob Trautwein led the Spartans with 14 total tackles, followed closely by Joe DeAlesandro with 13 tackles and Darren Callan with 12 tackles.
Torelli led the Maritime offense with 109 rushing yards on 26 carries, while Butterworth went 15-for-25 for 140 yards and two touchdowns, plus he ran for 54 yards. Defensively, Liam Bailey led the Privateers with eight total tackles, with four other players earning seven tackles apiece.
Castleton (3-4, 3-1 ECFC), remaining in a tie for second place in the ECFC, embarks on the first of three straight road trips next weekend, traveling to Washington, D.C., to face Gallaudet University Saturday, Oct. 29, starting at 1 p.m. The Bison lost to Norwich Saturday, 27-6, to fall to 1-6 overall and 0-4 within the conference.