The Mack Report

Football: Turnovers Doom Merrimack, Falls to Stonehill

Football tacke

NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – Trailing by 12 with just over two minutes to go in the third quarter, the Merrimack College football team kept first-place Stonehill off the board through the remainder of regulation, but the Warriors’ potent offense could not come up with the late-game magic it would need, as a four-turnover afternoon sent Merrimack to a 26-14 setback at home against the first-place Skyhawks on Saturday afternoon at Martone-Mejail Field.

The Basics
 Stonehil 26, Merrimack 14
 Stonehill (8-2, 8-1 NE-10) | Merrimack (6-4, 5-4 NE-10)
 Martone-Mejail Field | North Andover, Mass.

The Class of 2014
Following the conclusion of the game, head coach Dan Curran and the entire Merrimack Athletic Department honored the 18-member Merrimack Football Class of 2014, includingArtis HoltShane FergusonJimmy HollandJoe ClancyAnthony MooreColin HayQuinn McDonoughDevante ParkerVincent GalloMatt TripicchioConor LarkinMatt LaRovere,Mark HeffordSam NovickiClay McRaeMichael HubbardFrank Antetomaso, and Greg Devine.

How It Happened
In what ultimately amounted to a gritty, defensive battle that saw both sides combine for seven turnovers altogether, Merrimack would get the ball back with just over two minutes to play in the third quarter staring at a 12-point deficit, but on their last four drives of the game, the Warriors would fumble, turn the ball over on downs consecutively, before one last fumble sealed the home side’s fate.

The first-place Skyhawks used 174 yards on the ground to power their victory, while backup quarterback Joe Della Vecchia tossed for two scores – both to Nate Robitaille – and Paul Piccirillo had perhaps the game’s most impactful moment after returning a kickoff 90 yards to answer a Merrimack scoring drive that had brought the Warriors to within six points late in the third.

After going the entirety of the first half without putting up a point for the first time in recent memory, the Warriors came out of the gate firing in the third quarter, needing just about five minutes and 15 plays before senior Joe Clancy (Newburyport, Mass.) hit sophomore wideout Jere Brown (Freeport, N.Y.) for a four-yard strike to put the home side on the board and make it a six-point (13-7) game with 10:12 to go in the third.

Della Vecchia and the Skyhawks responded on their very next drive, marching 76 yards on nine plays before hooking up with Robitaille for a 38-yard strike that pushed Stonehill back ahead by double-digits, 20-7.

Yet again, though, the Warriors would answer, as the offense went 689 yards over 12 plays in just over three minutes before Clancy found freshman Justin Mount ( ) on a 14-yard strike that made it a one-possession game with 2:22 to go in the third.

But on the ensuing kickoff, Piccirillo took the ball from his own 6-yard line and went all the way to the house, giving Stonehill the insurance points it would need over the remainder of the contest.

The Warriors would have four more opportunities to claw back from their 12-point deficit, and nearly found the end zone on more than one occasion; but untimely turnovers, including a fumble at the Stonehill 25 and a pair of turnovers on downs near the red zone, were the home side’s undoing, as Merrimack was forced to settle for its lowest single-game scoring total since a 20-7 loss at Bryant back on Sept. 13, 2008.

A Closer Look

  • Merrimack finished the night with a 359-293 lead in total offense, passing for 251 yards and rushing for another 108
  • Clancy finished the afternoon 35-for-56 with 251 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, with Brown leading all receivers with 113 yards, averaging 12.6 per catch
  • Senior Quinn McDonough (Medford, Mass.) enjoyed a fine day on the ground, averaging 6.4 yards per rush with 102 yards
  • Freshman Jay White (Longmeadow, Mass.) averaged 39.4 yards per punt, including a game-high 55-yard boot that landed inside the 20
  • Stonehill’s Colin Markus was impressive, rushing for 185 yards on 31 carries, including a game-high long of 42 in the second quarter
  • Defensively, Merrimack limited Stonehill to just 119 passing yards on Saturday, with four different Warriors registering a breakup while senior Jimmy Holland (Billerica, Mass.) and sophomore Zach Maiuri (Dedham, Mass.)registered an interception each
  • Junior Justin Hood (Billerica, Mass.) led all Warriors with 10 tackles, while classmate Chris Unis (Gloucester, Mass.) barreled his way to a two-sack performance
  • The Skyhawks were equally stingy on defense, sacking Clancy for a season-high four times, while Brian Harrington and Sterry Codrington each eclipsed double-digits in tackles with 16 and 12, respectively

Up Next
Finishing the regular season in fifth place in the NE-10 standings, Merrimack will host eighth-seeded Southern Connecticut State next week at home as part of Northeast-10 Championship Weekend. Kickoff time will be announced in the coming days.