College Football: Plymouth Tops Castleton 20-7

Courtesy Castleton Sports Information

CASTLETON –  The Castleton football team dropped its season-opening game to Plymouth St. on Saturday afternoon, falling by a final score of 20-7 at Spartan Stadium.

It was a tale of two halves, as the Spartans took a 7-6 lead into the break, but were outscored 14-0 in the second half. Soren Pelz-Walshhad the team’s only touchdown of the day on a 17-yard reception from Nick Boles in the first quarter. Darren Callanhad a career-high in tackles, recording 19 stops in the defeat. Moe Harris averaged 4.6 yards per carry on the ground, getting the ball 11 times for 51 yards.

For Plymouth, Blair Zentek was seemingly everywhere, intercepting two passes and recovering a fumble to go along with three tackles. David Hamilton led the way on the ground for the Panthers, rushing for 65 yards with a touchdown. Zach Edwards was 14-for-22 passing in the game, recording 157 yards and a touchdown.

Plymouth St. won the first down battle, moving the chains 18 times to Castleton’s 14. The Panthers also dominated the ground game, gaining 151 rushing yards as a team while Castleton mustered only 49 yards. Overall, Plymouth St. out-gained Castleton 308-182 offensively.

Plymouth got out to an early lead, scoring on its opening drive. A key third-down conversion on a reception by Mitch Banuskevich went for 27 yards, and after a personal foul was tacked on to the end of the run the Panthers had the ball deep in Castleton territory. Six consecutive rushing plays ended with Banuskevich breaking it outside for a walk-in touchdown to give the visitors a 6-0 lead.

Castleton answered back with 1:11 left in the first quarter, taking a 7-6 lead after a 10-play drive that spanned 4:15.Nick Boles went 7-for-8 on the drive, capping it off with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Pelz-Walsh. Pelz-Walsh had five catches on the drive, including one for a first-down conversion to keep the drive alive prior to his score.

The Spartans forced a quick three-and-out to end the first quarter, taking over with the ball in Plymouth territory after 22-yard punt return by Joe DeAlesandro down the right sideline. Castleton couldn’t convert the field position into point, putting up a three-and-out of its own.

The Spartan defense was holding strong late in the second quarter, forcing Plymouth to punt for the third consecutive drive. Ryan Waldecker sent a ball end-over-end down field, but before it could be downed it deflected off the back of a Castleton blocker and was recovered by Zentek to give the Panthers the ball inside the red zone at the 20-yard line. After making three stops to force a field goal attempt, Jeff Madden missed his 31-yard attempt to keep the score at 7-6.

Coming out of the break, a Spartan drive stalled after six plays resulting in a punt by Pat Powers that went for a touchback. Edwards and the Panthers then manufactured an eight-play, 80-yard drive to take their first lead since early in the first quarter. On second down, Edwards found Chris Kelly wide open for a 37-yard score, followed by a converted extra point, to make it a 13-7 game in favor of the visitors.

Two plays after the Panther touchdown, Boles was picked off by Zentek to give Plymouth the ball in prime territory at the Castleton 42-yard line. Five plays moved the ball up to the Castleton 13-yard line, but a botched snap by Edwards gave the Spartans the ball back when Allen Justice scooped it up for Castleton.

Another costly turnover by the Spartans led to Plymouth’s third touchdown of the day, as the Panthers used nine plays to cover 31 yards over 4:20 of game time. The drive was capped off with a three-yard touchdown run by Hamilton, followed by an extra point by Madden to give the game a score of 20-7.

The ensuing drive by Castleton returned hope to the team, as they moved the ball deep into the Plymouth St. end of the field. A pair of third-down conversions kept the drive alive before Harris sprung a 16-yard run down to the Plymouth 10-yard line. A fourth-down field goal attempt turned chaotic, as a bad snap led to an interception thrown by Castleton kicker Ryan Payne. An ensuing personal foul gave the Panthers the ball at their own 19-yard line. Neither offense could muster anything else the remainder of the way, allowing time to expire with the score still at 20-7.

The Spartans will travel to Fitchburg St. next Saturday. Kickoff is slated for 2 p.m.