College Football: Spartans Rally Past Anna Maria 17-14

Courtesy Castleton Sports Information

PAXTON, Mass. – The Spartan defense didn’t allow Anna Maria to score in the second half and got a key fourth down stop in the final three minutes to secure a hard-fought 17-14 victory over an upset-minded Anna Maria squad on Saturday in Paxton.

Castleton entered the game at 5-2 while the AMCATs were winless on the season, however, it was Anna Maria that scored first and then didn’t trail until Bobby Lineberger’s field goal with 6:57 remaining gave the Spartans a 17-14 advantage. The defense then preserved the lead as Darren Callan and host of linemen forced an incompletion and near 20-yard sack on fourth down with under three minutes left to put it away.

The victory improves Castleton’s record to 6-2 and 4-1 in the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference while Anna Maria drops to 0-8 and 0-5 in conference action. The Spartans finished with 280 yards of total offense, but just 88 on the ground while the AMCATs had 298 yards of offense and 104 through the air.

The stingy Castleton defense was led once again by Callan, who in addition to his near sack to force a turnover on downs, finished with a game-high 12 tackles, one tackle for a loss and one pass break-up. Senior Jay Morgan was also impressive with seven tackles and 0.5 sacks.

Offensively, Moe Harris rushed 21 times for 91 yards and a score while George Busharis finished 13 of 27 for 192 yards, one touchdown and an interception. Soren Pelz-Walsh was his main target, catching ten passes for 149 yards and a score. Makai Hawkins made three catches for 43 yards.

Daniel Faison led the Anna Maria Offense, going 8-for-14 for 104 yards and one score while rushing ten times for 62 yards. St. Clair Ryan led the team with 64 yards on 13 attempts with one score. Trai Weaver caught three passes for 61 yards and a touchdown. Jake Leblanc led the defense with eight tackles, including one for a loss.

Both offenses struggled early but it was the AMCATS who had the first sustained drive as they used 11 plays and 6:31 to drive to the Castleton 17-yard line on fourth down. They missed a field goal attempt and the Spartans took possession but couldn’t do anything with it.

Anna Maria responded on its next drive, starting on its own 36-yard line. The offense drove to the Castleton 31-yard line and on third down Faison found Weaver for a 31-yard score and 7-0 advantage.

Following empty possessions by both teams, freshman Grant Cummings forced and recovered a fumble at the AMCAT 45-yard line to give the Spartans back the ball. Eight plays later Busharis connected with Pelz-Walsh for a 16-yard touchdown to tie the game 7-7 with 6:44 left in the half.

Anna Maria added a rushing touchdown with just 1:04 left in the period by Ryan to take a 14-7 lead into the half.

The Spartan offense continued to stall, but the defense stopped the AMCATS on fourth down inside the 30-yard line to take back the ball. Busharis connected with Pelz-Walsh on three straight passes before Harris plunged into the endzone to tie the game 14 apiece with 3:51 left in the quarter.

Castleton started its game-winning drive with 11 minutes remaining at its own 47-yard line. The team moved down the field to the Anna Maria four-yard line before being stuffed on third down. The team settled for the 20-yard field goal from Lineberger with 6:57 remaining.

The AMCATS took back the ball and moved into Castleton territory. They eventually called a timeout with 2:36 on fourth down with two yards to go. On the snap Faison went back to pass but the defensive line chased him and Callan nearly pulled him down for a 20-yard sack before he tossed the ball away for a turnover on downs.

The Spartans and Harris then ran out the clock to secure the three-point win. The four-game win streak is the longest in program history while the six wins are tied for the second most in program history.

Castleton returns home to Spartan Stadium for a 12 pm kickoff against 5-3 Becker on Saturday.

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