NORTH ANDOVER — Trailing by 12 with just over two minutes to go in the third quarter, the Merrimack College football team kept first-place Stonehill off the board through the remainder of regulation, but the Warriors’ potent offense could not come up with the late-game magic it would need yesterday afternoon.
The results was that a four-turnover afternoon sent Merrimack to a 26-14 setback at home against the first-place Skyhawks (8-2, 8-1). Merrimack fell to 6-4, 5-4 in the NE-10.
In what ultimately amounted to a gritty, defensive battle that saw both sides combine for seven turnovers altogether, Merrimack would get the ball back with just over two minutes to play in the third quarter staring at a 12-point deficit, but on their last four drives of the game, the Warriors would fumble, turn the ball over on downs consecutively, before one last fumble sealed the home side’s fate.
The first-place Skyhawks used 174 yards on the ground to power their victory, while backup quarterback Joe Della Vecchia tossed for two scores.
After going the entirety of the first half without putting up a point for the first time in recent memory, the Warriors came out of the gate firing in the third quarter, needing just about five minutes and 15 plays before senior Joe Clancy hit sophomore wideout Jere Brownfor a four-yard strike to put the home side on the board and make it a six-point (13-7) game with 10:12 to go in the third.
Della Vecchia and the Skyhawks responded on their very next drive, marching 76 yards on nine plays before hooking up with Robitaille for a 38-yard strike that pushed Stonehill back ahead by double-digits, 20-7.
Yet again, though, the Warriors would answer, as the offense went 68 yards over 12 plays in just over three minutes before Clancy found freshman Justin Mount on a 14-yard strike that made it a one-possession game with 2:22 to go in the third.
Merrimack finished the night with a 359-293 lead in total offense, passing for 251 yards and rushing for another 108 Clancy finished the afternoon 35 for 56 with 251 yards and two touchdowns.
and two interceptions, with Brown leading all receivers with 113 yards.
, averaging 12.6 per catch
Senior Quinn McDonough enjoyed a fine day on the ground, averaging 6.4 yards per rush with 102 yards
Defensively, Merrimack limited Stonehill to just 119 passing yards on Saturday, with four different Warriors registering a breakup while senior Jimmy Holland and sophomore Zach Maiuri registered an interception each. Junior Justin Hood led all Warriors with 10 tackles, while classmate Chris Unis barreled his way to a two-sack performance
Finishing the regular season in fifth place in the NE-10 standings, Merrimack will host eighth-seeded Southern Connecticut State next week at home as part of Northeast-10 championship weekend.