WORCESTER -- Alex Domond (Cambridge, MA) returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown with 1:13 remaining to put WPI ahead and the Engineers stuffed a two-point conversion rush attempt with 27 seconds left as Crimson and Gray celebrated Senior Day with a pulsating, 35-34 victory over visiting Rochester on Saturday afternoon.
With the victory, WPI (6-3, 3-3 Liberty League) guarantees its first winning season since 2008 and is eligible an for an ECAC Bowl. Rochester slips to 5-3, 3-3 in conference play.
The game featured a wild ending with three touchdowns in the final 90 seconds. The visiting YellowJackets evened the contest at 28-28 when Shane Saucier (Oceanside, NY) plunged in from one yard out and Andrew Haber (Niskayuna, NY) added the PAT to cap a 16-play 80-yard drive. The ensuing kickoff appeared headed out of bounds, which would have set WPI up at its own 40-yard line, but rolled dead at the 1. Domond alertly picked up the ball, followed a block by Jason Lamb (Plymouth, MA) up the middle and cut toward the right on his way to the end zone.
Rochester, who had twice earlier rallied from two-touchdown deficits, was unphased and traveled 72 yards on six plays and hitting pay dirt when Justin Redfern (Harrisburg, NC) found Max Berger (Yardley, PA) on a 34-yard scoring strike over the middle with just 27 ticks left. The U of R elected to go for the winning two-point conversation, and after three timeouts, and a pass interference by WPI that took the ball the 1-yard line, running back Nick Perpignan (Brooklyn, NY) was stopped inches short of the goalline by Jake Brown (Fall River, MA), Torin Zonfrelli (Carver, MA) and Dereck Pacheco (Barnstable, MA).
WPI was not yet out of the woods as Sean Murphy (Mattapoisett, MA) recovered the ensuing onside kick to ensure the victory for the homestanding Engineers.
Before the wild finish, Mitch Celaj (Worcester, MA) hauled in two of quarterback Dan Eckler's (Stoughton, MA) three touchdowns. Celaj caught a 15-yard pass from Eckler with four seconds remaining in the opening half. After Kevin Lynch (East Bridgewater, MA) picked off the second pass of the new half, Celaj made a one-handed catch on a back shoulder throw for a 20-yard TD reception to finish off a seven-play, 63-yard drive with 11:06 left to play in the third.
Zach Grasis (East Brookfield, MA) put the Enginers on the board with a one-yard plunge just 3:10 into the contest. Marcus Middleton (Stoughton, MA) hauled in a 12-yard pass from Eckler with 6:09 to play in the first.
The second quarter belonged to Rochester who scored a pair of rushing touchdowns. Redfern used a 10-yard rush around the edge keep to cut the Yellowjacket deficit in half with 10:43 showing on the scoreboard. With 54 seconds left in the half, Saucier ran it a yard to even the game at 14-14.
Kyle Allegrini (Ringwood, NJ) brought the game back to within a score 8:09 into the third. His 19-yard reception topped off a 13-play, 76-yard series which saw the Yellow Jackets convert on all four third-down conversions.
Eckler completed 14-of-17 passed on the day for 204 yards and the three scores. He also ran for 65 yards on 11 carries. Grasis rush 17 times for 71 yards and the touchdown, while Middleton ended with 4 catches and 37 yards to go along with his score. Redfern was strong too for the guests, amassing 329 yards through the air on 29-of-45 passing and a team-best 48 yards on the ground. The senior accounted for three touchdowns (2 passing, 1 rushing). The trio of Myles Allen (Bethesda, MD), Perpignan and Saucier combined for 121 yards rushing on 34 carries. Derek Wager (Palmyra, NY) paced all players with 10 catches for 87 yards.
Sam Malafronte (Abington, MA), Erix Lacroix (Methuen, MA) and Zonfrelli all reached double figures in tackles with 12, 11 and 10, respectively. Lynch made nine solo stops to go along with his interception and a pass breakup and Pacheho was credited with three quarterback hurries and Lamb racked up a pair of tackles-for-loss.
R.J. Borgolini (Ballston Spa, NY) has seven solo tackles for the guests, while Thomas Marone (Manorville, NY) registered six stops. Peter Crossett (Fayetteville, NY) with two tackles-for-loss, including a sack.
Rochester held the edge in time of possession, holding the ball for 32:32 while WPI had it for 27:28, including a 10:07 to 4:53 advantage in the second quarter. The Yellowjackets outgained the Engineers, 498-360, and ran 31 more plays (85 to 54).
WPI travels to Springfield for a noon kickoff on Saturday for its season finale, while U of R will host Hobart at noon.
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