---- — BROOKVILLE, N.Y. —
Leading by just five with most of the fourth quarter to play, the Merrimack College football team’s defense came through when the team needed it most, preventing host LIU Post from getting back on the scoreboard over the remainder of regulation while leading the Warriors to a gritty, 26-21 victory over the Pioneers in a key Northeast-10 Conference battle yesterday afternoon at Hickox Field.
Heralded as one of the top offensive teams in the country throughout the season, the story on Saturday was the defense coming through in the biggest way possible.
While the 26 points on offense stood as the fewest in a single game this season, Merrimack’s defense made sure that output would be more than enough, highlighted by a safety in the third quarter that added two key points to their lead before yielding nothing over the final 10 minutes of regulation.
The Pioneers would have three separate opportunities over the final 10:31 of the ball game to either add a field goal or take the lead with a touchdown, but all three drives would be for naught.
Trailing at one point, 14-10, Merrimack would close out the first half with a 11-play, 72-yard drive that ended with quarterback Joe Clancy finding Jared Brown for the second time in the opening 30 minutes to give the Warriors a 17-14 advantage at the break.
Merrimack then added seven more on their first possession of the third quarter. Clancy needed 10 plays and took just 2:52 off the clock before finding sophomore Frankie Dunn for the latter’s first score of the game, pushing the Warriors ahead, 24-14.
The hosts pulled to within six on their first drive of the fourth quarter, capped off by a Michael Richardson 16-yard run, wrapping up an 11-play, 79-yard drive that clipped the Warriors’ lead to 26-21 with just over 10 minutes to play.
But from there on out, Merrimack’s defense would yield nothing else en route to the victory.
“That was as gritty of a win as you’ll see, and our defense certainly earned it for us.,” said head coach Dan Curran.
“We made plays when we need to on both sides of the ball, but for the D to come through the way they did, you couldn’t ask for much more than that. We’ll have another important one next weekend with New Haven, but today I couldn’t be more proud of our guys.”
Senior Jimmy Holland, junior James Flores and senior Artis Holt led the Warriors with 14, 11 and 10 tackles, respectively.
Clancy finished the day 39 for 66 with three scores, one interception and 381 yards in the air.
Brown led all Warriors with 140 yards and two touchdowns, while senior Shane Ferguson added 79 yards to that total
Merrimack welcomes reigning Northeast-10 champion New Haven for just its second home game of the 2013 campaign next Saturday at 1 p.m.