Football Comes Up Short vs. St. Lawrence in Season Finale, 24-21

R.C. Grady

St. Lawrence 24, WPI 21

Box Score  

Worcester, MA --- Eric Jones (Watertown, NY) led all rushers with an impressive 179 yards on 14 carries and a TD and the St. Lawrence defense forced five turnovers while totaling eight sacks to key the Saints' 24-21 win over WPI in the Liberty League season finale for both teams on Saturday afternoon on WPI's Alumni Field. The Engineers wrapped up their 2009 campaign with a 3-7 record overall and fell to 0-7 in the league. St. Lawrence concludes its season at 3-7 and 2-5 in the conference.

Senior QB Mike Swanton (Foxboro, MA) hit Nick Bean (Middleboro, MA) with a 16-yard TD pass in the final minute to cut the Saints' lead to 24-21 as WPI attempted to claw its way back from a 24-7 deficit. The comeback bid fell just short however, as WPI finished its season without a win in Liberty League play.

The Engineers got on the board first, thanks to two of their graduating seniors. A interception and return by Todd LeClerc (Middleton, MA) gave WPI the ball at the St. Lawrence 13-yard line before Swanton ran into the end zone on the very next play to give WPI a 7-0 advantage.

WPI was unable to hold onto the momentum however, as the Saints put together a quick four-play, 74-yard drive to tie the game en route to 17 unanswered points heading into halftime. Connor Hackett's (Bronxville, NY) one-yard run capped the long drive to tie the score at seven, then St. Lawrence added a 32-yard field goal from Matthew Dodge (Meredith, NH) early in the second quarter to take a 10-7 lead. Hackett's TD was his 27th career rushing touchdown, breaking the St. Lawrence school record for career rushing TDs that had been on the books since 1978. Following a WPI fumble on their own 21, the Saints' Marcus Washington (Pahokee, FL) dashed for a touchdown run to give the visitors a 17-7 lead heading into the break.

St. Lawrence took firm control of the game midway through the third quarter, when the Saints took possession in Engineers territory following a WPI punt, then scored the first touchdown of the second half on a 38-yard run from Jones that extended the Saints' lead to 24-7.

WPI would respond on its next possession however, moving the ball 64 yards on seven plays, capped off by a one-yard plunge by Ernie Mello (Wilmington, MA) that cut the Saints lead back to 10 with 3:57 to play. Swanton found Bean from 16 yards out on the next WPI possession, but with only one second to play in the game, the Engineers comeback bid fell three points short.

Featuring a ground attack that totaled 261 yards and three scores, it was the Saints' defense that keyed the road victory. St. Lawrence's defensive unit held WPI to 0-for-10 on third down, forced five turnovers and picked up eight sacks. Tom Lagos (Watertown, NY) led the way with three sacks, while Gerard Bryant (White Plains, NY) had 2.5 and Nate Howard (Durham, NH) 1.5. Bryant also had a team-high eight tackles and pulled down an interception, while Christian Bianchi (Pittsfield, MA) added to the Saints defense with two INTs.

Swanton threw for 230 yards on the afternoon on 22-for-35 passing and R.C. Grady (Shirley, MA) led all receivers with 12 catches for 112 yards in the final collegiate game for both players. Mello led WPI with 42 yards on the ground on six carries. Jack Mulhern (Worcester, MA) paced the WPI defense with a game-high 12 tackles and a sack, while Peter Gill (Franklin, MA) picked up eight tackles. Michael Oliveri (Milford, MA) had seven tackles and one interception for the Engineers.

Along with Swanton and Grady, the game marked the final collegiate game for co-captains LB Chris Boudreau (Rensselaer, NY) and tackle Justin Pollard (Taunton, MA), starting wideout Cody McGregor (Westfield, MA), starting guard Stan St. Juste (Everett, MA) and defensive standouts LeClerc, Craig Kennedy (Seekonk, MA), Justin Deveau (Lowell, MA) and Andrew Abderrazzag (Auburn, MA).

WPI is slated to face Salve Regina in the 2010 season opener on Saturday September 4th.

Story by Ray Cotrufo - WPI Athletics