Springfield's Second Half Surge Stuns Football in Liberty League Opener

Chase Flibbert

Springfield, MA --- The Springfield College football team strung together 28-unanswered points and held on for a thrilling 28-23 win over WPI on Saturday afternoon at Stagg Field in Liberty League play.

The win evens Springfield's record to 2-2, 1-0 in conference play, while the Engineers lost for the first time this season to fall to 3-1, 0-1.

Chad Shade (Pittsfield, MA) came in under center in late in the second quarter and was the spark Springfield's offense needed as he totaled 164 yards and two touchdowns on the ground while completing two passes for 76 yards and another score.  Defensively, Springfield had eight players with at least four tackles, with Kenny Calaj (Everett, MA) leading the way with eight stops.

For WPI, Sean McAllen (Prospect, CT) caried the ball 25 times for 114 yards, while Dan Eckler (Stoughton, MA) connected on 16-of-29 attempts for 196 yards and a score.  Defensively, Brian Murtagh (Wayland, MA) was strong fo the Engineers, totaling 13 tackles, including two for loss.

Eckler ended the game second all-time in all-purpose yards (5,144), third in career pasing yards (4,525) and fifth in career attempts (592). Brandon Eccher (Franklin, MA), the other member of the Hockomock Connection, cracked the top 10 in career receiving yards (8th - 1,482) and moved up to eighth in career receptions (106).

The first half belonged to WPI, as they outgained Springfield, 207-73 and went into halftime with a 17-0 cushion.  The Engineers struck on their second drive of the game when McAllen took a direct snap and elevated to complete a pass to Keeghan O'Leary (Queensbury, NY) from three yards out with 5:15 left in the first quarter.  The drive was highlighted by a 49-yard run up the gut by McAllen on their first play from scrimmage.

WPI doubled its lead on their next possession, going 70 yards on 10 plays over 4:46 as Eckler delivered a four-yard strike to Alex Domond (Cambridge, MA) at the 13:10 mark of the second quarter.  A three-and-out by the Pride gave the Engineers the ball back, and the ensuing 11-play 53 yard drive featured six rushes and a catch from McAllen, eventually resulting in a 26 yard Blaine Bursey (Middleburg, FL) field goal with 5:28 on the clock.

After losing a fumble on their first series of the second half, Springfield forced WPI in a three-and-out and capitalized as Shade scampered 50 yards untouched just 4:58 into the quarter to make it a 17-7 ball game.  

On their next possession, Shade orchestrated an 11-play, 89 yard drive that chewed up nearly six minutes of clock.  Hunter Belzo (Middletown, CT) got to the edge for a two-yard TD, a score that was set up by a beautiful 54-yard catch-and-run from Shade to Tyler Hyde (Plantsville, CT) two plays earlier.

With the momentum shifted their way, Springfield's defense made another big play, this time getting an interception from Nick Welsh (Middletown, NJ) that gave the Pride the ball at the Engineer 25 yard line with the third quarter winding down.  On the first play of the fourth, Shade scrambled loose and hit Nick Valles (Danvers, MA) for 22-yard touchdown to put Springfield ahead for good.

Springfield's defense came up with another stop, leading hte Pride to a score on its fourth-consecutive possession.  The nine-play 67-yard drive was punctuated by a 19-yard score from Shade as he broke free from the Engineer defense and dove past the pylon to put the hosts ahead 28-17 with 8:23 remaining in regulation.

The visitors made things interesting when Eckler found paydirt from 18 yards out with 5:06 on the clock.  The two-point conversion pass was broken up in the end zone by Welsh, making it a 28-23 contest.  

The Pride tried to seal the game on the next drive, going for it on 4th and 1 from their own 44, only to Belzo's four-yard rush called back for holding.  With the home crowd on its feet, Springfield's defense didn't disappoint, as a holding call and a Nick Giorgio (Cumberland, RI) sack gave the Engineers a 4th-and-27.  A last ditch hook-and-ladder effort fell short and Springfield was able to to take a knee for the 28-23 league win.

WPI welcomes Union Saturday for a 1:30pm kickoff. Charter TV3 will air the game on tape delay and will call the game live on the webstream. Springfield will continue Liberty League action next Saturday when it hits the road for the first time this season, making the long trek to St. Lawrence for a 1:00 pm contest.

Release Courtesy Springfield Sports Information