Football Closes Out Regular Season by Grinding Out 19-17 Road Win at Springfield

Zach Grasis

Springfield, MA --- Senior Zach Grasis' (East Brookfield, MA) second touchdown of the day proved to be the game-winner as visiting WPI withstood a late Springfield drive and defeated the Pride 19-17 in Liberty League football action on a windy Saturday afternoon at Stagg Field.   

The victory pushes the Engineers record to 7-3 overall and 4-3 in conference play.  The seven victories equal the most, along with the 2008 team, since the 1992 campaign for Crimson and Gray, who await word on Monday of a possible ECAC Bowl bid.  It was also WPI's first-ever win in Springfield in program history. 

Springfield, which came into the contest ranked No. 7 in Division III football averaging 300.9 rushing yards per contest, closes its season with a mark of 4-6 and 2-5 in Liberty League play.

For WPI, junior quarterback Dan Eckler (Stoughton, MA) posted 15 completions on 22 attempts, totaling 147 yards and one  touchdown through the air, while also notching 44 yards on eight attempts on the ground. Leading the Engineers' rushing attack was Grasis, who picked up 101 bruising yards and two scores on 26 attempts in the victory while Marcus Middleton (Stoughton, MA) led players with seven receptions.

Defensively for the Engineers, senior Eric Lacroix (Methuen, MA) posted a team-best 12 tackles, while classmate Torin Zonfrelli (Carver, MA) also registered 10 stops and a sack on the day. Brian Murtagh (Wayland, MA) also amassed a sack to go along with nine tackles.

For the Pride, senior halfback Drew Brown (Barrington, RI) led the rushing attack, as he posted 158 yards and a score on 10 attempts, while sophomore quarterback Jake Eglintine (Gansvoort, NY) recorded 108 yards on 21 attempts, including a 14-yard touchdown score to kick off the second quarter. On the day, Springfield recorded 333 yards on the ground.

Defensively, senior linebacker Max Nacewicz (Sandy Hook, CT) registered a career-best 19 tackles and one sack, while Taumeras Howard (Jamesville, NY) and Kenny Calaj (Everett, MA) posted eight tackles apiece in the loss.

On the Pride's first play of the game, Brown evaded a few tackles in the back field, before breaking loose for an 85-yard touchdown run to give Springfield an early 7-0 lead over the Engineers just 25 seconds into the contest.

Following the Springfield score, WPI showed its resiliency, driving the ball 84 yards over 15 plays, capped off by a 1-yard touchdown run from Grasis, evening the score at seven apiece following an extra-point conversion from Blaine Bursey (Middleburg, Fla.) just 1:37 into the second quarter.

On Springfield's next drive, Brown's 33-yard run down the right sideline put the Pride deep in WPI territory, before Eglinitine broke through the Engineers' defensive unit for a 14-yard touchdown run, breaking the goal line untouched. Freshman kicker Blake Heller (North Bellmore, NY) would convert his extra-point, giving the Pride a seven-point, 14-7 lead with 10:44 left in the frame.

WPI countered once again with a 12-play, 60 yard drive over 6:18, highlighted by a pair of receptions from Middleton as Eckler eventually found the junior wideout on a crossing pattern that he picked off the turf for the Engineers' second score of the contest. Bursey would fail to convert the extra-point, leaving the Pride with a one-point edge over the visitors.

After forcing a fumble on the Springfield sideline, senior defensive lineman Dan King (Walpole, MA) recovered the loose ball, setting up the Pride on the WPI 36-yard line. Following a 13-yard pass and catch from Eglintine to Brown, Heller was able to drill a 17-yard field goal to wrap up the first half, giving Springfield the 17-13 lead at the break.

Down four heading into the second half, the Engineers' defense came up with a huge stop on a fourth-and-one attempt from Eglintine, before Eckler conjured up a 6-play, 58-yard drive, including a 35-yard rush from the senior, setting up a Grasis touchdown out of the "Wild Goat" formation on the goal line to give WPI a two-point, 19-17 lead over Springfield with 6:48 to go in the thrid quarter.

Springfield attempted to counter on its next possession, when Eglintine connected with Nick Valles (Danvers, MA) for a 53-yard pass-and-catch, giving the Pride a first-and-goal on the WPI 8-yard line. Following three big plays from the Engineers' defense, a botched snap was recovered by Peter Salem (Dracut, MA), ending the Pride's drive deep in WPI territory.

After Bursey pinned the Pride deep in its own territory following a touchback, Eglintine went back to work, as back-to-back pitched to Brown went for 13-yards apiece, before connecting with Joe Festo (Yorktown Heights, NY) for another 13-yard pass and catch, setting up Springfield in WPI's red zone, but the Pride would miss the field-goal attempt, giving the ball back to the Engineers, as WPI would run out the clock and seal the victory. 

Majority Portion of Release Courtesy Springfield Sports Information

 

A photo posted by WPI Athletics (@wpiathletics) on Nov 14, 2015 at 11:24am PST