LEICESTER, Mass. – Mitchell Caron connected with Anthony Porcelli for a 51-yard touchdown pass with less than four minutes remaining in regulation, and the Castleton defense stopped Becker's final offensive drive to give the Spartans a 23-22 victory over the Hawks Saturday afternoon in an Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) contest at Alumni Field.
After Becker took a 22-16 lead five minutes into the second half, Castleton found itself in Hawk territory four times without scoring any points. After a Becker punt was downed at the Castleton 46-yard-line, Caron found Ryan Barry for a short gain, and launched a long throw to Porcelli, who raced past the Hawk defenders, corralled the pass, and fought his way into the end zone for his first touchdown of the season. Ryan Payne connected on the extra point to give the Spartans a one-point advantage.
Becker (2-7, 1-5 ECFC) was helped by a 36-yard kickoff return by DeJahn Dawkins that brought the ball to midfield with 3:36 left in the fourth quarter. On 4th-and-1, quarterback Mitchell Driscoll kept the ball and forced his way up the middle for the first down on the Spartan 39-yard-line. He then completed a pass to Brandon Mulling for 17 yards to bring the Hawks inside the 25-yard-line.
Becker gained seven yards on the next three plays to set up 4th-and-3 at the Castleton 15-yard-line. Jacob Holmes came on to try a field goal that would give the Hawks the lead inside the final minute, but his 32-yard attempt sailed wide left, and the Spartans ran out the final 40 seconds to clinch the victory.
Caron completed 17-of-32 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns, with Barry catching nine of those passes for 75 yards. Porcelli caught only two passes, but one was a 53-yard reception and the other was the 51-yard touchdown for 104 total receiving yards, and Soren Pelz-Walsh caught six passes for 97 yards. Moe Harris led the Spartan running game, carrying the ball 23 times for 113 yards.
The two teams exchanged punts to open the game, and then Holmes broke off an 87-yard touchdown run, followed by his extra point, to give the Hawks a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter. Castleton answered back on its next drive, an eight-play, 65-yard drive culminating with a 17-yard touchdown pass from Caron to Pelz-Walsh that tied the game at 7-7.
After a Becker punt, Castleton held the ball through the end of the first quarter into the start of the second quarter, ending with a 29-yard field goal by Payne to give the Spartans a 10-7 lead. Becker followed an exchange of punts with a 10-play, 77-yard drive, capped by a one-yard touchdown run by Driscoll to give the home team a 14-10 advantage.
Castleton took advantage of a pass interference call against the Hawks to put together another scoring drive late in the first half, with Harris scoring from two yards out to allow the Spartans to retake the lead at halftime, 16-14. The Spartans opened the second half with a 55-yard drive, highlighted by a 40-yard completion from Caron to Barry, but Payne's field goal attempt was blocked by Davin Collins.
Another big play would allow the Hawks to go back on top, as Driscoll found Mulling for a 68-yard touchdown pass, and a pass from Driscoll to Michael Caban gave Becker the two-point conversion that made the score 22-16.
Becker could not extend its lead, starting when Darren Callan intercepted a Driscoll pass at the Castleton 32-yard-line, and continuing with the Spartans forcing four Becker drives to go three-and-out. Jakob Trautwein led Castleton with 13 total tackles, including four tackles for a loss, as he took over the team lead in total tackles for the season with 125, the most by a Spartan in a single season.
As a team, Castleton earned 20 first downs as it collected 421 yards of total offense, 145 rushing yards and 276 passing yards. The Spartans held the ball for almost five more minutes than the Hawks, committed only four penalties for 18 yards, and forced Becker to punt the ball eight times.
Castleton (4-5, 4-2 ECFC) wraps up the 2016 season with the battle for the Maple Sap Bucket Trophy, as the Spartans face Norwich University next Saturday, Nov. 12, starting at 1 p.m. Norwich is also 4-2 in the ECFC and 4-5 overall after losing to Husson Saturday, 27-13.