Antonopoulos' Four Touchdown Passes Not Enough Against Merchant Marine

Nick Bean
Worcester, MA --- Led by quarterback Alex Coviello's (Cape Coral, FL) 243 rushing yards, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy defeated host WPI, 34-27, Saturday evening at Alumni Field in Worcester.
Merchant Marine is now 2-4 with a 1-1 mark in the Liberty League standings while WPI drops to 2-4 with a 1-2 conference record.

WPI would start the game with excellent field position after a 26-yard return by Manny Cambra (Bethel, CT) took the ball to the Engineers' own 46 yard line. The Engineer offense would drive all the way to the Merchant Marine one-yard line before a goal-line stand on fourth-and-goal by the Mariner defense gave the ball to Merchant Marine and sent WPI away scoreless.

Merchant Marine would answer with a 12-play drive, 88-yard drive capped off by a 28-yard field goal by Richard Grennen (Port Jefferson Station, NY) that gave the Mariners a 3-0 lead.
The Engineers took the field with great position again on the following possession when Ernie Mello (Wilmington, MA) returned the kickoff 41 yards to the Merchant Marine 45. On just the second play of the drive, quarterback Johny Antonopoulos (Cambridge, MA) completed a 50 yard bomb to Cambra, putting WPI on the board with a 7-3 lead.

Getting the ball back with 4:39 left in the quarter, Coviello would lead his offense on a 10-play, 59-yard drive, punching it through himself on an option play to start the second quarter. WPI's John Perron (Worcester, MA) would block the ensuing point after, and Merchant Marine would kickoff leading 9-7.

WPI converted a huge third-and-thirteen on their following drive when Antonopoulos completed a 14-yard pass to Trevor Dunne (Cedar Knolls, NJ) for a first down. Three plays later, a 19-yard reception by Mello would give the Engineers a first down in Merchant Marine territory at the 36 yard line. Antonopoulos would cap off the 10-play, 70 yard drive with a touchdown pass to Nick Bean (Middleboro, MA), giving the Crimson and Gray a 14-9 lead with 10:09 remaining in the first half. 

On the ensuing Mariner drive, WPI's William Alves (West Warwick, RI) would strip Matthew Bozich (Ponte Vedra, FL) of the football at midfield, giving the ball back to the Engineers at the 50 yard line. WPI could not convert, however, and was forced to punt it away.

The Mariners would take full advantage on the following drive, going eighty yards capped-off by a 25-yard touchdown run by JP Gosselin (Nashua, NY). A successful two-point conversion on a rush by Gosselin gave Merchant Marine a 17-14 lead with 1:47 left in the half.

The following two minutes would thrill the fans at Alumni stadium. WPI was forced to punt on their following drive, only to immediately get the ball back when they recovered a live ball at the Mariner 44 yard line with 1:17 left. After the Engineer offense started to sputter, a personal foul call gave them new life and a first down. That set up a 24-yard touchdown pass to Dunne, giving the lead back to WPI. After a missed extra point, the home team would kick off with a 20-17 lead and just 34 seconds left.

Taking over with good field position, Coviello completed a 45 yard bomb to Chase Dunn (Dade City, FL), who made it all the way to the WPI one-yard line. Coviello then completed a one-yard touchdown pass to Mike Mitchell (Mt. Pleasant, SC) that would put the Mariners up 24-20 going into halftime.

On the first drive of the second half, Merchant Marine would seem to be picking up right where they left off. A 26 yard reception by Gosselin gave the Mariners a first down in WPI territory. Four plays later, Alves successfully defended a Coviello pass to the corner of the end zone, setting up a field goal attempt. WPI's Nick Chambers (Braintree, MA) then came up huge, blocking a 34-yard field goal attempt by Grennan.

WPI would then take over. On the third play from scrimmage, Mello would bust out with a 61 yard run, giving WPI a first and goal from the Mariner 16. Three plays later, Antonopoulos completed a 12-yard reception to Bean, giving the Engineers a 27-24 lead.

The Engineer defense would hold on the following drive, blocking the ensuing Merchant Marine punt and giving the ball back to Antonopoulos with good field position at their own 43. Going for it on fourth and one from the Mariner 21, the Engineers would again call on Ernie Mello, who picked up the two yards and the first down. With another fourth and one, this time from the Merchant Marine ten, WPI would opt to pass on the first play of the fourth quarter. Merchant Marines' Tyler Washington (Chatham, NY) would keep it a one-possession game, intercepting a pass by Antonopoulos at the two-yard line and running it back to the 19.

Coviello and Gosselin would continue to carry the Mariner offense on the ground. Rushing on nine consecutive plays, Coviello would finally score on a six-yard rush to give his team a 31-27 lead with 10:16 left in the game.

On the following drive, WPI was forced to punt when Merchant Marine's Barry Preusch (Tampa, FL) nearly picked off an Antonopoulos pass on third down. The Engineer special teams made a big play for their squad, downing the punt at the two yard line.

Facing a third-and-eight from the WPI 26, Coviello was picked off by Kevin White (Worcester, MA) on a deep pass, giving WPI the ball back with 4:59 remaining, still down 31-27.

But the Mariner defense would be equal to the task. When WPI chose to go for it on fourth-and-one, Merchant Marine's Michael Biehn (Woodlands, TX) tackled Cambra for a loss, giving the ball back to Merchant Marine and putting WPI in dire straits with 4:17 left in the game.

The Mariners faced third and thirteen from the Engineer 21 with 1:42 remaining when WPI expended their final timeout to stop the clock. Coviello was then tackled short of the first down on the following play, and Grennan would kick a 34 yard field goal, giving the Mariners a 34-27 lead.

WPI drove into Mariner territory on a 23 yard reception by Cambra. But Antonopoulos was intercepted by Chris Dumesnil (Woodstock, GA) two plays later, and Merchant Marine would take a knee to end the game.

Coviello got his 243 yards on 27 carries, scoring twice. Gosselin ran for 166 rushing yards on 25 carries and one touchdown.

Antonopoulos finished 19 of 35 passing with 285 yards and four touchdown passes. Mello had another great game for WPI, pounding his way to 147 on 22 carries and catching four passes for 36 yards. Bean also had a tremendous day, with seven receptions for 86 yards and two scores. Dunne had four receptions for 65 yards and one touchdown. Cambra had 89 yards on just three catches with a touchdown.

The Merchant Maritime defense came through when it mattered, with two interceptions and two sacks. Dumesnil and Kevin Stapf (Fort Pierce, FL) each coming up with seven tackles.

Shaine Grogan (Peru, MA) and Mohamed Yatim (Shrewsbury, MA) each came up with 11 tackles for WPI, with Yatim also recovering a fumble. Peter Gill (Franklin, MA) had nine tackles. Chambers had a sack in addition to his blocked kick. Alves finished with seven tackles.

The Engineers are off next weekend, but they will return to action on Saturday, October 22nd as they head to Rochester to take on the Yellow Jackets. Kickoff is at 1pm. Merchant Marine Academy will get first crack at the Yellow Jackets as they host Rochester at their Homecoming game on Saturday, October 15th at 2pm.