BANGOR, Maine — Not even the loss of Husson University’s starting quarterback was enough to keep the Eagles from a big victory on a bright and blustery Saturday at the Winkin Complex.
Then again, when your running game is averaging 5.2 yards per carry, your quarterback doesn’t need to do much more than hand the ball off.
Starting quarterback James McCandles and backup Jack Hersom both did more than that, however, to help the Eagles come away with a 39-21 win over Springfield College that puts the Eagles in solid playoff contention.
“I don’t know about that because we’re not in a league so we still need to win the rest of our games, but this victory was unimaginable six years ago,” said head coach Gabby Price, whose Eagles are 4-2. “I can tell you that. It’s big for us.”
Tailbacks Justin Lindie and Julius Williams combined for 219 of Husson’s 260 rushing yards to make life a lot easier for their quarterbacks.
“When Jack came in, we kind of wanted to put things on our shoulders with the run game,” said Williams. “We told the offensive line it was up to them. If you move, we move.”
And move they did, up and down the field behind the human wall of center Mike Austin, left guard Ben Emmott, left tackle Ryan Esmail, right guard Kyle Wedge and right tackle Jon Benson.
“They were doing a good job getting push up front. Our fullbacks took on their linebackers head on and really opened up some room,” said Lindie, who led all rushers with 123 yards and one TD on 18 carries.
“We tried to get a little more movement out of the inside defensively and get some guys to execute some of the things we wanted to do earlier and weren’t doing,” said Springfield head coach Mike DeLong. “Still, their backs and big linemen did a good job.”
So did Husson’s quick and athletic defensive front, particularly tackle Cory Smith of Hebron and linebacker Bobby Gilbert of Beaver Cove.
“Number 11 [Smith] and number 34 [Gilbert] were hard guys to block,” DeLong said. “Their defense is a little quicker than they have been in past years and contained our offense pretty well.”
All told, the 1-4 Pride was held to 172 total yards (132 rushing). Husson recovered two of four Springfield fumbles, intercepted one pass and had 13 tackles for a loss — one of which was a sack.
“I think what they were doing was running away from that side, so we knew we had to scrape and get down the field,” said Gilbert. “We were free, so we had to creep through the seams as they shifted and attack the gaps.”
The Eagles never trailed in the game after jumping out to a 7-0 lead on their opening drive, but the game became tight late in the third quarter after the Pride capped a nine-play, 48-yard drive with a TD that shrunk Husson’s lead to 26-21 with 53 seconds left.
After the teams traded punts to open the final quarter, Husson marched 63 yards in nine plays, the last of which was a 10-yard TD pass from Hersom to P.J. Dowe of Bangor with 5:51 to play.
“He came in and did the job with a couple of big throws,” said Williams, who had 96 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. “We weren’t worried because he was one of the best players in the state of Maine last year.”
Hersom, the former Fitzpatrick Trophy Award winner from Fairfield, started the second half for McCandles after McCandles suffered a jarring hit on a tackle late in the first half. After the game, Husson sports information director Warren Caruso said McCandles was OK and should be able to start the next game.
The Eagles iced the game 90 seconds later as another Bangor High alum, Kyle Vanidestine, intercepted a Pride pass and sprinted 40 yards for a TD.