Coccagnia and Wertz Nab Homecoming MVP Awards as Football Falls to Merchant Marine

Award Ceremony - WPI Football 2022

WORCESTER -- A four-touchdown day for quarterback Jeremiah Wang (Manassas, VA) sparked visiting Merchant Marine, as the Mariners spoiled WPI's Homecoming with a 41-14 victory at Alumni Field. Merchant Marine starts NEWMAC play at 1-0, improving to 3-1 overall, while the Engineers fall to 2-3 overall, 0-1 in the NEWMAC. 

Wang did in the air and on the ground, completing two passes for 98 yards, both of which went for touchdowns, while rushing for 144 yards on 22 carries and two touchdowns. As a team, the Mariners held WPI to 183 yards of offense, allowing just eight net yards on the ground. 

USMMA's Talsen Smith (Roseville, CA) caught both touchdown passes for 98 yards, while Matthew Savard (Orlando, FL) finished with 55 yards on the ground on 12 carries.  Ceaser Gonzalez (Norco, CA) tallied 54 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. 

Defensively for Merchant Marine, Xavier Coleman (San Ramon, CA) and C.J. Mustain (Oro Valley, AZ) both had five tackles and a sack, while Mustain totaled three tackles for loss. C.J. Livesay (Morristown, TN) notched two sacks in the win. 

For WPI, Homecoming Offensive MVP Dante Coccagnia (E. Syracuse, NY) was 15-for-20 for 175 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The WPI offense was stymied on the ground with Hunter Carey (South Hadley, MA) the leading rusher at 18 yards on 10 carries. 

On defense, Evan Wertz (Franklin, MA) led the Engineers with 14 tackles en route to a selection as Defensive MVP. Gavin Chieff (Bernardsville, NJ) had 12 tackles, while Zachary Carney (North Easton, MA) and Harrison Kyriacou (Plainview, NY) each picked up 11, with Kyriacou having two for loss. 

The MVPs for Homecoming are named in honor of Robert W. Pritchard, WPI's second athletic director and former football coach.  Representing the Pritchard family in handing out the awards Saturday was his daughter Diane Pritchard Clayton, who was attending her jaw-dropping 75th WPI Homecoming football contest. Click and scroll down to read Jen Toland's Telegram & Gazette feature.

Merchant Marine scored on its first possession of the game, a 13-play 50-yard drive, culminating in a 16-yard rush from Wang for pay dirt and a 7-0 advantage. WPI had to punt on its next drive, but Aaron Skaling (Bedford, NH) forced a fumble on the return, which was recovered by Matthew Wofford (Tulsa, OK). Coccagnia then found Isaac Frederique (Methuen, MA) with a 14-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 7-7. 

The Mariners regained the lead in the second quarter, outscoring WPI 10-0 to open a 17-0 advantage at the break. Wang connected with Smith for a 44-yard touchdown on the first possession of the quarter, before a Jackson Tinkis (Bossier City, LA) 42-yard field goal made it 17-7 Merchant Marine. 

The visitors tacked on three third-quarter touchdowns, scoring on every possession of the frame, to open a 38-7 advantage. Smith caught a 54-yard pass from Wang to make it 24-7, while a three-yard rushing touchdown from Gonzalez pushed it to 31-7. Wang got it done with his legs for the third TD of the quarter, scrambling in from 49-yards out to make it a 31-point advantage. 

In the fourth quarter, Tinkis added an early field goal, this one from 35-yards out to make it 41-7 Mariners. WPI added one more touchdown, a 69-yard pass from Coccagnia to Noah Herzig (Hubbardston, MA), to set the final to 41-14. 

NEWMAC play continues for both teams next Saturday. Merchant Marine hosts Norwich at noon while WPI plays at Catholic at 1pm.

Photo courtesy of WPI Athletics Student Assistant Andrew McCammon