WORCESTER – Junior Dan Eckler (Stoughton, MA) threw for 206 yards and 3 TDs and ran for another 60 yards on 10 carries to lead the WPI Engineers past the visiting Norwich Cadets at Alumni Stadium.
The Engineers improve to 3-0 for the first time since 2009 and will open Liberty League action vs. RPI during homecoming at 1 p.m. Sept. 26. The Cadets fell to 0-3 and will host Becker to open Eastern Collegiate Football Conference play at 2 p.m. Oct. 3.
In the Engineers first possession of the second half, Eckler scampered for 45 yards and a first down, then found senior running back Brian Marsh (Troy, NY) on a 22-yard pass to put WPI up, 20-10.
On the ensuing WPI possession, Eckler – off play action – dropped the ball perfectly in sophomore Mitch Celaj's (Worcester, MA) hands and Celaj did the rest on the 73-yard touchdown connection. The Blaine Bursey (Middleburg, FL) extra point made it 27-10 WPI with 7:52 to go in the 3rd quarter.
The 73-yard strike was set up after WPI junior defensive back Kevin Lynch (East Bridgewater, MA) knocked down Philippe Bazinet (Otterburn Park, Quebec) pass intended for senior Sam Chaves (Alfred, Maine) on 4th and 7 from the WPI 27.
From there, the WPI defense, led by sophomore defensive lineman Dereck Pacheco (Barnstable, MA), controlled the game. Pacheco finished 11 tackles, a career-high, and blocked a 44-yard field goal for the Engineers, while junior Brian Murtagh (Wayland, MA) had four tackles and two interceptions, and seniors Eric Lacroix (Methuen, MA) and Torin Zonfrelli (Carver, MA) had 8 tackles apiece.
WPI never trailed. A bad snap led to a safety less than 1 minute into the game, and on the Engineers' possession after the free kick, Bursey, who also had five touchbacks and two punts downed inside the 20, connected on a 22-yard field goal for a 5-0 WPI lead.
With just over a minute to go in the first quarter, Eckler found junior Brandon Eccher (Franklin, MA) (4 catches, 51 yards) in the back of the end zone on a bootleg to the right, giving the Engineers an 11-0 lead after Bursey's PAT was blocked.
Norwich scored all 10 of its points in the second quarter– a 1-yard run by sophomore Quincy Williams (Brossard, Quebec) and a 47-yard field goal by junior Wes Medeiros (Guilford, NH). Williams rushed 21 times for 60 yards for the Cadets.
Senior Zach Grasis (East Brookfield, MA), who led all rushers at the half with 50 yards on 10 carries, finished with 66 yards on 18 carries for WPI, while Celaj closed with 104 yards receiving on 3 catches.
Despite 6 yards separating the two -- WPI had 368 yards to Norwich's 362 -- WPI did so in 57 offensive plays averaging 6.5 yards per play, while Norwich ran 83 plays for an average of 4.4.
The Cadets were led defensively by senior linebacker Eleazar Rausseo's 10 tackles and a forced fumble, while sophomore Austin Roberts (East Bridgewater, Mass.) amassed six tackles.
-- JB --
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