WORCESTER – Dan Eckler (Stoughton, MA) and Brandon Eccher (Franklin, MA) connected twice for touchdowns in the first quarter as WPI jumped out to a 24-0 lead after four possessions in a 38-8 victory over visiting Merchant Marine in a Liberty League football matchup Friday night at Alumni Stadium.
Zach Grasis (East Brookfield, MA) eclipsed 2,500 career rushing yards. The senior finished the game with 25 carries for 129 yards and 2,594 in his career, which is four shy of tying 2010 WPI Hall of Fame inductee Ernie Ansah '96 for fourth place on the Engineers all-time list.
With the win, WPI (5-2, 2-2 LL) posts its best record through seven games since 2008 while the Mariners slip to 2-5 on the year and 1-4 in league action.
On the opening drive, Eckler faced with a 4th-and-4 and connected with Eccher for a 36-yard score with 11:25 displayed on the scoreboard. The duo then teamed up for a 34-yard strike on the Engineers second possession for the two touchdown lead. Eckler scored one of his own on a 40-yard keep with 7:38 to go in the third.
Eric Lacroix (Methuen, MA) put the Crimson and Gray in great field position when he recovered a fumble at the Mariner 34 to setup an eventual 14-yard Grasis TD with 3:10 left in the first.
Blaine Bursey (Middleburg, FL), who already had three points (PATs) to his credit in the game, drilled a 21-yard field goal to give the Engineers the 24-0 advantage with 9:33 to play before the break.
As the intermission was approaching, Channing Meyer (Norman, OK) picked off a pass for guests in the end zone and returned it 23 yards.
With 1:30 remaining in the third, Matt McDaniels (Malverne, NY) took the two-yard plunge for the touchdown for the Mariners and followed up with a three-yard keep for the two-point conversion. The score capped an impressive 17-play drive.
Brian Marsh's (Troy, NY) 17-yard run, combined with another Bursey PAT gave the Engineers a 30-point cushion, its first in league play since a 35-0 decision at home against Merchant Marine on September 22, 2007.
Eckler was 13-of-18 with 229 yards, two scores and an interception while Mack Eberhardt (Dunstable, MA) went 2-for-4 in the air for 47 yards and rushed for 18 yards on three carries. Eckler also ran three times for 45 yards and a score. Connor Sakowich (Lynn, MA) ran for 53 yards on eight attempts. Eccher ended his night with 124 yards on six catches as Marcus Middleton (Stoughton, MA) pulled down five for 83 yards. Steven Thulin (Walpole, MA) caught a 43-yard pass to help the Engineers cause.
Brian Murtagh (Wayland, MA) led all defenders with 10 tackles, including seven solo and one for-loss. Lacroix followed with seven while Kyle Havey (North Reading, MA), Kevin Lynch (East Bridgewater, MA) and Pat Finn (Kingston, MA) all contributed five each. The WPI defense did not allow the guests to run a play on the Crimson and Gray's side of the field until just over four minutes remaining
Wiley Martin (Polo, MO), McDaniels, Joe Bellomo (Holliston, MA), Zachary Boucher (Wyckoff, NJ) and DeVar Jones (Albany, NY) all netted double-digit rushing yards for the Mainers. Dillon Reaves (Omaha, NE) guided the defense with eight stops as Meyer added seven and Hill chipped in with six.
WPI enjoyed a 283-146 margin in rushing yards and 276-26 in the air. The Engineers went 3-for-4 in the red zone while Merchant Marine was 1-for-1. The Boynton Hillers also went 6-for-12 on third down conversions and 1-for-2 on fourth downs.
The Engineers travel to St. Lawrence on October 31 at 1pm while Merchant Marine hosts Union on November 7 at noon.
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