CASTINE, Maine – Senior fullback Jim Bower rushed for 125 yards on 25 carries despite a tender hamstring and scored on a four-yard run in the fourth quarter and senior cornerback Mike Riley had two important first-half interceptions as Maine Maritime Academy held off mistake-prone Westfield State 21-13 in a New England Football Conference game at rainy Ritchie Field Saturday afternoon.
Maine Maritime Academy improved to 3-1 overall and 1-1 in the conference while Westfield State (Mass.) fell to 2-3, 0-2, respectively.
Bower’s TD capped an 11-play, 69-yard drive and tied the game before Mike Brennan’s conversion placement gave the Mariners a 14-13 lead.
The Mariners forced four turnovers and, on the ensuing WSC possession, Tom Lockhart recovered a Westfield State fumble at the MMA-35. Lockhart was filling in for the injured Travis Fergola.
The Owls had three more possessions but couldn’t score and back-up quarterback Matthew Rende, playing for the injured Tyler Angell, added an insurance score on a 14-yard run with 1:40 left.
Westfield State did march down to the MMA-18 with 35 seconds left but Riley broke up two passes and the Mariners hung on.
Angell opened the scoring for MMA with a 19-yard run that came three plays after Brennan recovered a fumble at the MMA-42. That occurred with 5:12 left in the first quarter and Brennan kicked the extra point.
Westfield State sophomore quarterback Kyle Anderson answered nine seconds into the second quar-ter with a four-yard run, three plays after Chris James had recovered a fumble at the MMA-21.
But Chris Stengel hooked the extra point wide left.
Stengel also hooked a 30-yard field goal attempt wide to close out the half.
The Owls took the lead with 8:28 remaining in the third quarter when sophomore running back Luke Johnson finished off a 13-play, 51-yard drive with a one-yard run. WSC head coach Steve Marino elected to kick the extra-point rather than go for the two-point conversion, a decision he later lamented as a “bad call” by him, and Stengel converted.
Angell rushed for 71 yards on 13 carries; Todd Murphy had 38 more on just four rushes and Nick Bourassa had 34 yards on seven carries including an important 18-yard jaunt on what proved to be the game-winning drive. Angell threw four passes but didn’t complete any.
Johnson rushed for 127 yards on 30 carries for the Owls and Anderson had 61 on 17 carries. Anderson completed 11-of-31 passes for 146 yards.
Fergola was in on a team-high eight tackles, four unassisted and four assisted, to lead the Mariner defense and Franklin Sawyer and Riley were in on seven apiece.
James had a game-high 13 tackles, including a game-topping eight unassisted tackles, and teammates Josh Mathieu and Matt Denman were involved in 10 and 9 tackles, respectively.