Merchant Marine Stuns Football in Wild Second Half; Eckler Sets Career Total Offense Record

Dan Eckler
Dan Eckler

WORCESTER – Junior Justin Sydlowski's (Plymouth, MI) interception with 2:13 to play eventually led to the game-winning field goal by classmate Jake McDonough (Wilmington, NC) with 13 seconds left to lift visiting Merchant Marine to a 45-44 victory over WPI in a Liberty League matchup Saturday afternoon at Alumni Stadium.

The Mariners (3-2, 2-1 LL) move over .500 while the Engineers dip to 4-2 overall and 1-2 in league action. Both teams overcame two possession deficits.

Trailing 44-42 with just over two minutes to play, Sydlowski picked off a pass on third and six. Merchant Marine then marched 66 yards on 11 plays to setup the deciding field goal.

Senior Dan Eckler (Stoughton, MA), the Robert Pritchard Award offensive selection, racked up 429 yards of total offense to become the all-time leader at WPI with 5,748. He also moved into second place in the record book for career passing yards (5,037) and third in career attempts (637). Senior Brandon Eccher (Franklin, MA), meanwhile, finished the day sixth in career receiving yards (1,648) and career receptions (117).

For the second consecutive week, the Crimson and Gray faced an unusual situation early in the contest. This time it was an on-side kick by the Mariners, which the guests recovered. The 10-play drive ultimately ended in a punt.

After WPI went 3-and-out, Merchant Marine needed only four plays, including a 30-yard touchdown pass from junior Robert Moore (Pace, FL) to freshman Luke Jamison (Tequesta. FL) to take the 7-0 lead.

Each side then had a pair of quick drives before WPI dented the scoreboard following a 19-yard field goal by senior Blaine Bursey (Middleburg, FL). Later in the second quarter, the Mariners turned an interception by junior Anthony Sandoval (Palmdale, CA) into a 14-3 advantage following a 26-yard rushing score by William Martin (Mount Kisco, NY).

The Engineers quickly responded when freshman Sean McAllen (Prospect, CT) hauled in an 83-yard score from Eckler on the first play of the next drive. Merchant Marine returned the favor with a one-yard keep by Moore.

Eckler then found sophomore Alex Domond (Cambridge, MA) for a 39-yard touchdown. With 14 seconds left in the half, Moore cashed in on another short keep to cap an eight-play sequence following a forced fumble, and recovery, by I. Stoner.

The Engineers scored the first 20 points of the second half to claim the 37-28 advantage. Senior Steven Thulin (Walpole, MA) broke the plane with a one-yard plunge with 9:20 remaining in the third. Eckler and Eccher teamed up on a 51-yard a seven-yard TD reception with 4:07 left in the third and 12:46 remaining in the game. A missed PAT on the duos first score made it 30-28.

Moore added a third rushing touchdown to his stat line with a 16-yard run to cut the Mariners deficit to a pair (37-35) as 6:54 displayed on the scoreboard. With 4:07 left, freshman Connor Field (Granby, CT) rumbled into the end zone on a 34-yard run to make it 44-35 Engineers. Freshman Joseph Vitelli (Warrington, PA) caught a four-yard scoring pass less than two minutes later to once again get the visitors within two.

Eckler connected on 17 of 25 passes for 378 yards and four touchdowns in the air, and added 52 yards on eight carries for the Engineers. Field led the WPI rushers with 55 yards on nine attempts and a touchdown. Eccher totaled 123 yards on six receptions and chipped in with a pair of TDs. McAllen and Domond also scored for the home team.

Senior Jason Lamb (Plymouth, MA), the Robert Pritchard Award defensive honoree, led the defense with 17 tackles (13 solo), including one for-loss to go with an interception and a pass breakup. He was followed by classmate Brian Murtagh (Wayland, MA) with 14 stops (12 solo). Sophomore Blayne Merchant (Sanderson, FL) contributed with a sack as classmate Luca Cerasani (Abington, MA) logged a game-best 2.5 tackles for-loss and Collin Saunders (Westwood, NJ) accounted for the remaining half tackle for-loss.

Moore completed 11 of 21 passing attempts for 156 yards and two scores in addition to 150 yards on 27 carries and three rushing touchdowns. Martin totaled 86 yards on 18 rushes and a TD while Jamison (65 yards) and Vitelli each had a receiving TD.

Senior Josh Woodburn (Huntingtown, MD) posted nine tackles (eight solo) as sophomore Brooks Cannell (Ambler, PA), senior Marcus Kitchin (Arlington, TX) and Stoner each had a tackle for-loss while sophomores Charles Deegan (Huntington, NY) and Brian Harris (Yonkers, NY) combined for one.

WPI owned the advantage in total offense (503-467) with a bulk of it in the air (378) while Merchant Marine rushed for 311 yards. Merchant Marine had a slight edge in time of possession (31:04-28:56).

The Engineers will enjoy a bye week and head to RPI Saturday, October 22 for the noon Tranist Trophy game. USMMA hosts RPI Saturday at 1pm.