NORTH ANDOVER — Trailing by seven at the intermission, the Merrimack College football team exploded for 27 points over the final 30 minutes yesterday and survived a late scare from visiting Bentley.
The result was a satisfying 40-34 in front of over 3,000 fans on homecoming at Martone-Mejail Field. That lifted the Warriors to 5-3 overall and 4-3 in the NE-10.
After Bentley opened the scoring with the first two touchdowns of the game, Merrimack capitalized on a Bentley turnover and rallied from a 13-0 deficit on a quarterback sneak from senior Joe Clancy before finding freshman Justin Mount for a passing score later in the second to tie it up. But the Falcons tacked on a late touchdown toward the end of the half to send the visitors into the locker room with a 20-13 lead.
But after the second fumble of the day by the Falcons, Merrimack would capitalize on the great starting field position and needed just five plays to tie it up early in the third quarter.
Then, following another Bentley punt, the Warriors would mount another scoring drive of their own, needing just 2:56 to go seven plays and 80 yards before Clancy found classmate Greg Devine for a five-yard strike that put the hosts ahead, 27-20.
That, however, would spark a run of five consecutive drives that would end in touchdowns.
The decisive score came as the Warriors once again started with great field position at their own 45, and Clancy would need just 1:14 and four plays to go the remaining 55 yards before connecting with Mount in the left corner of the end zone to make it 40-34 with under 10 minutes to play.
Merrimack, however, would miss on back-to-back field goal attempts, keeping Bentley in the game until the very last possession.
Bentley would matriculate into Merrimack territory, but by that point, with no timeouts, the clock ran out on the visitors, as the defense held strong when it mattered most to preserve the homecoming victory.
On the offensive front, both sides combined for over 1,000 yards, with Merrimack out-gaining Bentley by a 528-506 margin on the day, with 297 yards in the air and 231 more on the ground, representing one of the Warriors’ top rushing performances in recent memory.
Clancy, who finished 29 for 45 with 297 yards and four passing touchdowns, tossed completions to nine different receivers on the day.
Freshman punter Jay White was stellar, pinning Bentley inside its own 20 twice while averaging 41.0 yards on both punt attempts
Merrimack continues Northeast-10 action next Saturday when it travels to Assumption for a tough road test against the Greyhounds. Kickoff from Worcester is set for 1 p.m.