New Hampshire Football Report

Franklin Pierce wins on final play

RINDGE – For much of Saturday afternoon, the Collegiate Sprint Football League contest at Sodexo Field could be labeled as sloppy, with weather to match enveloping the Granite State. Tied at 8-8, the Franklin Pierce University sprint football team took a timeout with six seconds to play in regulation and took one more shot at the end zone.

The 39-yard pass by junior quarterback Jose Melo (Greenwich, Conn.) was deflected at the goal line and ricocheted to the waiting arms of freshman running back Ahzir Turner (Schenectady, N.Y.) 3 yards into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown as time expired, with Franklin Pierce pulling out a 14-8 win over visiting Chestnut Hill.

Franklin Pierce improved to 3-3. Chestnut Hill fell to 2-4.

Franklin Pierce tied the game with a 10-play, 83-yard touchdown drive earlier in the fourth quarter. The drive featured a 30-yard pass from Melo to Turner on a third-and-9 play with the Ravens still in their own half of the field. It still appeared the drive would stall out at the Chestnut Hill 17-yard line, as a third-down pass to freshman wide receiver Alex Revere (Boston, Mass.) fell incomplete, leaving the Ravens facing fourth-and-9. Franklin Pierce kept the offense on the field though, and Melo found freshman running back Kobie Smith (Leominster, Mass.) in the end zone for the score. The point-after attempt was unsuccessful, leaving the game tied at 8-8.

The two teams traded four possessions in the final five minutes of regulation, as both sides looked to break the tie. Chestnut Hill got across midfield to the Franklin Pierce 45, but was then forced to punt. Franklin Pierce went three-and-out and was forced to punt from its own 25. Chestnut Hill got as far as the Franklin Pierce 32, but senior linebacker Josh Castro (Nashua) stuffed sophomore running back Jonathan Baldwin on fourth-and-1 to turn the ball over.

With 30 seconds left in regulation, the Ravens took over 68 yards from the end zone. After an incomplete pass, Smith rushed up the right sideline for 19 yards, crossing midfield. Two plays later, after a timeout, Smith picked up 8 more yards on the ground, getting the ball to the Chestnut Hill 39-yard line and setting up the game-deciding play.

Neither team succeeded in getting anything going in the first half, as the two sides combined for just 83 yards of total offense on 65 first-half plays. Chestnut Hill took a 2-0 lead less than five minutes in, as Franklin Pierce faced second-and-10 at its own 4-yard line. The snap sailed over the head of freshman quarterback Mike Mancini (Amherst) and out the back of the end zone for a safety.

Franklin Pierce picked up a safety of its own on a similar play with 3:51 to play in the second quarter. On first-and-10 from its own 9-yard line, Chestnut Hill saw a snap elude freshman quarterback Michael Marino and bound out the back of the end zone to tie the game at 2-2, which was where the score would remain until halftime.

Chestnut Hill would jump to an 8-2 lead with 5:22 remaining in the third quarter. A personal foul after a punt play set the Griffins up with a short field, as the drive began at the Franklin Pierce 35-yard line. The big play of the drive came on third-and-7, as Marino found sophomore wideout Raevon Floyd-Bennett deep down the right side for 30 yards, to the Franklin Pierce 2-yard line. Three plays later, on third-and-goal, Marino took a shotgun snap and laid a pass out in the flats for Floyd-Bennett, who easily collected the one-yard touchdown pass. The point-after attempt would be unsuccessful, leaving Chestnut Hill with an 8-2 lead, and setting the table for Franklin Pierce’s fourth-quarter heroics.

Franklin Pierce finished with 236 yards of total offense, to 204 yards for Chestnut Hill. Franklin Pierce went for 112 yards on the ground and added 124 more through the air. Chestnut Hill mustered 48 rushing yards to go with 156 passing yards.

Smith finished as Franklin Pierce’s leading rusher, with 71 yards on 12 carries (5.9 yards per carry), including the two key carries on the winning drive. Melo finished the day 6-for-12 for 124 yards and two scores, while throwing an interception as well. Turner hauled in three passes for 68 yards and a touchdown.

Defensively, Castro led the Ravens with 11 tackles (three solo), including three tackles for loss.

For Chestnut Hill, Baldwin finished as the leading rusher with just 27 yards on 15 carries (1.8 yards per carry). Marino threw for 156 yards and a touchdown on 14-for-33 passing. Sophomore wideout Kadeem Pankey hauled in five catches for 48 yards, while freshman Nathan Moser added three receptions for 73 yards.

Defensively, Baldwin was all over the field for the Griffins as a linebacker, piling up 16 tackles (five solo), including three tackles for loss.

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