CASTLETON, Vt. – Despite a close battle for much of the first half, the Husson football team used strong play on both sides of the ball on Saturday afternoon, to defeat its Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) rival Castleton by a final score of 43-21 at Spartan Stadium.
The Spartans suffer their fourth defeat of the season—their most losses since 2013—and now sit at 2-4 overall with a 2-1 mark in ECFC play. Husson moves to 5-1 overall with the victory and remains atop the ECFC standings at 3-0 and approves to 16-1 in the last 17 ECFC games.
It was a tough day for the Castleton offense, as the team collected just 88 total yards from scrimmage. Mitchell Caron totaled 107 yards on 12-of-31 passing, while Soren Pelz-Walsh was on the receiving end of a pair of touchdowns from Caron. The senior wide receiver finished the contest with three catches for 53 yards, including the two scores. Moe Harris became the first Spartan to return a kickoff for a touchdown this season, taking one back 88 yards in the first quarter, and Jakob Trautwein led all players in the game with 15 tackles—eight of which were solo stops. Darren Callan also reached double-digits in tackles, with 12.
For the Eagles, John Smith continued his stellar season—racking up 198 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries to reach the 1,000-yard mark for the third-straight season and became the first tailback in program history to record 4,000 rushing yards and the first Eagle player to achieve 4,000-yards of total offense. Obie Christmas also amassed 91 yards on the ground, while Cory Brandon threw for 177 yards and a touchdown. The Spartans intercepted Brandon twice on the day as Mark Alberque and Tyler Higley each picked off the Husson quarterback for Castleton.
Kadeem Edge caught the lone receiving touchdown of the day, as he and Brandon connected on a 78-yard score in the third quarter. Robenson Saintard caught just two passes on the day, but the wide receiver recorded a pair of short rushing touchdowns to help his squad to victory.
Leading the way for the Husson defense was Ellis Throckmorton who recorded a team-high five tackles and an interception. Logan Steward, Rick Orio, Alonzo Connor, Elvin Suazo, Jr., and Luke Washburn each chipped in four tackles, while Suazo and Washburn added 2.5 and 1.5 sacks respectively.
The Husson offense didn't take long to get going, as it marched 67 yards down the field in just three plays and 1:20 to open the game with a touchdown for the 14th game in a row with the first points of the game. Smith picked up 11 yards on his first touch of the game, before Saintard followed with a nine-yard end-around to get the ball into Castleton territory. On the next play, Smith broke through the left side and went 47 yards to the end zone, giving his team a 7-0 lead after Travis Tetreault converted the point after.
Castleton answered on the ensuing kickoff, as Harris fielded the ball on a hop at his own 12-yard line. The sophomore bounced it outside to the right sideline and beat the last Eagles defender at the 25-yard line on his way to the end zone. A successful kick by Ryan Payne leveled the score at 7-7 just 1:33 into the contest.
Castleton had another golden opportunity, when Tyler Sturtevant forced a fumble by Saintard on the following kickoff. Christian Procida dove on the loose ball, giving the Spartans a chance to take an early lead. Castleton went three-and-out, however, punting the ball away where it went out of bounds at the 40-yard line. Husson then marched the ball down the field once more, covering 60 yards in eight plays and 5:07 for its second lead of the day. Smith carried the ball into Spartan territory once more on the first play of the drive, before a second-down completion to Saintard gave the Eagles the ball in the red zone. Smith then marched the ball down inside the 10-yard line, before a third-down rush by Brandon came up just short of a touchdown. Facing a fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line, Husso n elected to go for it—a decision that paid great dividends. Brandon handed the ball off to Saintard on a sweep and the wideout powered his way into the end zone for the one-yard score to make it a 14-7 Husson advantage going into the second quarter.
Early in the second quarter, the Spartans took over on offense after their defense forced a quick three-and-out. Facing a second-and-long, Caron connected with Pelz-Walsh for 13 yards to create a manageable third down. After failing to convert the third down, Castleton followed the lead of Husson and elected to go for the fourth-down conversion. A four-yard carry by Corey Brimmer picked up the first down at the Husson 19-yard line. Castleton continued to drive the ball deep—and eventually found the end zone when Caron connected with Pelz-Walsh for a 14-yard score to even the score once more.
The deadlock didn't last long, however, as Husson received a key special-teams play of its own. Deon Wiggins fielded the ensuing kickoff at the Eagles' 17-yard line before running it back 83 yards to give his team a lead once more, 21-14.
Late in the half, after forcing a Husson punt, Castleton took over at its own 26-yard line in search of the tying touchdown. Things went just the opposite—as the drive started with a completion that was called back on a holding penalty—giving the Spartans a first-and-20 look. Luke Washburn then sacked Caron for a loss of seven yards to bring up second-and-27. On the ensuing play, Caron bobbled the snap into his own end zone before falling on it for a safety that gave Husson a 23-14 lead going into the halftime break.
After Castleton posted back-to-back three-and-out drives to open the second half, Husson looked to put the game out of reach. Starting a drive at their own nine-yard line, the Eagles gained some breathing room after a nine-yard completion to Wiggins. A first-down rushing attempt was stuffed by Callan and Trautwein, but on second-and-eight Brandon took a shot and connected with Edge for a 78-yard score—the Eagles' longest passing play since 2008—to go up 29-14.
Another strong return by Harris set up the Spartans with good field position after the kickoff, as Castleton took over at its own 45-yard line. The swarming defense of the Eagles sacked Caron for a loss of 11 yards on the first play of the drive, before his second-and-long pass attempt was intercepted and returned for a touchdown by Ellis Throckmorton to give Husson a 36-14 lead after touchdowns that came just 54 seconds apart.
Castleton kept fighting, as the Spartans battled back for another score before the end of the third quarter to close the gap. After forcing a three-and-out, the Spartans took over at their own 36-yard line. Caron connected with Ryan Barry for 38 yards to open the drive and move the ball into Eagles' territory. On the very next play, Caron found Pelz-Walsh for a 26-yard score to make it a two-score game heading into the final quarter of play.
The Eagles put the game out of reach early in the third quarter, as the team capped off a nine-play, 57-yard drive with a touchdown with just 14:16 to play in the contest when Saintard collected his second touchdown of the day on the ground to give Husson a 43-21 lead it would hold until the final whistle.
Husson dominated the time of possession in the game, as it had the ball for 42:28 of the contest. The Eagles also outgained Castleton 483-88 in yards from scrimmage. The Spartans won the turnover battle in the contest, forcing two interceptions and fumble while turning the ball over just one time. Each side scored seven points off of turnovers, while each team also had one special-teams touchdown in the contest. Husson picked up 17 first downs—nine rushing and eight passing—while Castleton mustered just six first downs, two of which came by way of Husson penalties.
Castleton is back in action next weekend when it plays its final home game of the season against SUNY Maritime at 1 p.m, while Husson host Anna Maria at 12 p.m.