Courtesy Norwich Sports Information
NORTHFIELD—For the first time in three seasons, the Norwich University football team defeated the Spartans of Castleton University in the annual Battle for the Maple Sap Bucket. Trailing by a game-high 10 points at halftime, the Cadets rallied to post a 35-27 victory at Sabine Field on Saturday.
Norwich concludes its 120th season of varsity play with a 5-5 overall record alongside a 5-2 mark within the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference. The Cadets, slated to join the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference prior to the 2017 season, conclude ECFC play with a 44-10 record since the league’s inception in 2009.
Freshman Aaron Conner (Daytona Beach, Fla.) led the way with two rushing touchdown on the afternoon while classmate Patrick Brown (Pooler, Ga.) netted a team-leading 102 yards, scoring a 31-yard touchdown. Junior Quincy Williams (Brossard, Quebec, Canada) and senior Nicholas Benoit (Saugus, Mass.) capped off the scoring with a rushing touchdown apiece.
Brown’s lengthy run put Norwich on the board first with only 4:06 expired in the game. The Spartans, however, added three-straight scores as Mitchell Caron and Corey Brimmer added one-yard touchdown runs, sandwiched between a Ryan Payne field goal – ultimately, Castleton carried a 17-7 lead into halftime.
With his team on defense to begin the second half, senior Derek Lotito (Swanzey, N.Y.) posted a key interception that preceded Williams’ nine-yard touchdown rush. With the Castleton lead cut to 17-14 following a point-after from senior Wesley Medeiros (Gilford, N.H.), Soren Pelz-Walsh recreated a 10-point advantage for the Spartans with a seven-yard reception only 2:07 later.
Norwich immediately assumed control of the game as Conner sprang for back-to-back touchdown runs of 10 and 27 yards, respectively, to propel his team into the lead with the help of two PAT’s by Medeiros. Conner’s final score of the day came only seven seconds into the fourth stanza, granting his team the lead for good.
A Payne 21-yard field goal made things interesting as Castleton would cut the Cadets lead to 28-27 with only 10:12 left in regulation time, but a one-yard sprint by Benoit added insurance late in the contest for Norwich. Lotito stood tall on the final Castleton drive of the game, blocking passes on third-and-goal and, eventually, fourth-and-goal to close out the win.
Junior Austin Roberts (East Bridgewater, Mass.) led the Norwich defense with nine total tackles, including one for a loss of three yards. Senior Jake Apthorpe (Honeoye Falls, N.Y.) registered four takedowns on the day, three of them coming for a combined loss of nine yards. In addition to his six tackles, Lotito’s 10-yard interception to begin the second half was ultimately proven to be a catalyst for the Norwich comeback in the second half.
Brown led Norwich with 102 net rushing yards while quarterback Philippe Bazinet (Otterburn Park, Quebec, Canada) netted 99 yards on the ground while completing 8-of-14 passes for 73 yards. Conner racked up 98 yards on 11 carries while Williams was fourth on the team with 56 net yards on 12 carries.
Corey Brimmer tallied 70 yards for Castleton on the ground, carrying the ball 28 times. Spartans quarterback Mitchell Caron was 25-for-46, passing for 284 yards and throwing for one touchdown and one interception. Anthony Porcelli cashed in with 114 yards on eight receptions while Pelz-Walsh also hauled in eight passes for 112 net yards.
24 student-athletes were recognized by Norwich prior to Saturday’s game with a Senior Day ceremony. Head Coach Mark Murnyack and the Cadets coaching staff greeted the families and friends of the Class of 2017 and were warmly received by the large crowd in attendance.
Norwich caps its 120th season of varsity competition with a 5-5 record – the Cadets have finished with a .500-or-better record in each of the last seven seasons dating back to the 2009 campaign.