Courtesy of Merrimack Athletics
NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – The Merrimack football team bounced back on Homecoming Weekend, racking up 35 first half points and forcing four turnovers, scoring twice on defense to defeat Assumption College 49-23 in front of 2,431 fans at windy Warrior Field.
The win sets up a big showdown for first place next Saturday at 1 p.m. between the Warriors (3-3, 3-1 NE-10) and New Haven in Connecticut. The Chargers improved to 5-1 in the conference after defeating AIC on Saturday.
The Warriors took a 21-7 lead after the first quarter, with Greg Abelli (Billerica, MA) setting up all three scores with receptions of 46, 46 and 49 yards on consecutive drives to move the ball deep into the Greyhound side of the field. Anthony Smalls (Dorchester, MA) scampered in from one and three yards on the first and third drive, while James Suozzo (Everett, MA) rushed into the end zone from two yards out on the Warriors’ second drive.
For the fourth time this season, Abelli was over 100 yards in the first quarter, catching four passes for 146 yards.
Assumption closed Merrimack’s lead to 21-16 late in the second with a touchdown and a safety and was driving late in the half, looking to take the lead, but Michael Jones (Chicago, IL) picked off Andrew Kupec and returned it 90 yards for his first career touchdown, completely changing the momentum into the hands of the hosts.
Four plays later, John Kravic (Red Hook, NY) blocked the punt and Jones pounced on it at the Assumption 35-yard line. One play later, Suozzo hit Omari Mobley (Baltimore, MD) in the end zone, giving Merrimack the 35-16 lead at halftime, despite possessing the ball for just 10:36 in the first 30 minutes.
Merrimack was held scoreless in the third, playing into the fierce wind but limited Assumption to just one touchdown, a 22-yard reception by Mark Gately to cut the lead to 35-23.
Suozzo and Smalls took over from there, putting the game away, as the junior quarterback rushed into the end zone from eight yards out to cap an 8-play, 43-yard drive that featured a fourth-down rush by Suozzo for a first down after scrambling and avoiding numerous tacklers.
After throwing for 246 yards in the first half, Suozzo finished with 216 total yards and one touchdown passing, making just seven completions, all in the first half, as the Warriors heavily ran the ball into the strong wind. Abelli finished with 157 yards on five receptions, while Smalls rushed for 74 yards and two scores.
Merrimack’s defense was impressive, forcing four turnovers and limiting Kupec to just 24 completions on 61 passes. Senior captain Garrett Boyd (Newburyport, MA) had a strong day on the defensive line, breaking up four passes and returning an interception for his first career score, while Ian Weaver (Brooklyn, CT) notched his first collegiate interception midway through the fourth.
Assumption, which had beaten two Division I teams this season including Fordham, dropped to 5-2 overall and 2-2 in the conference with the loss, its second in three games.