Courtesy of Merrimack Athletics
NEW HAVEN, Conn.
– James Suozzo (Everett, MA) rushed for three touchdowns and threw for 314 yards, but the Merrimack football team dropped a first-place showdown to the University of New Haven 27-25 Saturday afternoon.
The loss drops Merrimack to 3-4 overall, 3-2 in the league, while New Haven maintains its first-place lead with a 5-1 conference record.
Suozzo set up a possible two-point tying conversion after picking up his third touchdown of the game, rushing from two yards out with 50 seconds to play. But the two-point conversion failed, as Anthony Smalls (Dorchester, MA) got the carry but could not get into the end zone.
Merrimack failed to recover the onside kick, and the Chargers ran out the clock, escaping with the big victory.
Suozzo took the Warriors down the field in just 2:17, going 88 yards and converting on two fourth downs, including a 28-yard rush to the New Haven 3-yard line on 4th-and-5.
New Haven controlled the first quarter, taking a 10-0 lead, but the Warriors came back in the second as Suozzo scampered into the end zone from three yards out, capping a 10-play, 87-yard drive over 3:07 that saw the junior quarterback connect with Greg Abelli (Billerica, MA) three times, including a 40-yard pass to start the drive.
Trailing 10-6, Merrimack looked primed to take the lead at the end of the half, but Suozzo, with his team at the 1-yard line, was picked off in the end zone by Desmond Anderson.
After the Warriors went three-and-out to start the second half, the Chargers went 74 yards, extending their lead to 17-6 as Victor Jones ran into the end zone from 1-yard out for his second 1-yard touchdown rush of the game. Mike DeCaro got the drive going, rushing for 42 yards on the first play of the drive before Ryan Osiecki found Sharieff Hall for a 16-yard pass, which got the ball to the one.
Following a 42-yard field goal from Chris Scifo, Suozzo cut the deficit to 20-13 with a 1-yard touchdown run, but New Haven came right back, as Hall hauled in a 16-yard touchdown reception with 8:44 to play.
Merrimack didn’t quit, as Anthony Smalls (Dorchester, MA) made it a 27-19 game, rushing in from three yards out, but the extra point attempt was blocked.
The Warrior defense then forced New Haven to punt, but Suozzo threw four straight incomplete passes, turning the ball over on downs with 3:17 left.
Just when it seemed that New Haven would run out the clock, Osiecki was intercepted by Ian Weaver (Brooklyn, CT) in the end zone giving Merrimack one last chance to tie the game, needing to go 88 yards in 3:07.
Suozzo finished with 314 passing yards, completing 29 of 58 passes for 314 touchdowns, while rushing for another 83 yards and three scores. Abelli picked up 135 receiving yards on 11 receptions, while Smalls totaled 53 yards rushing. Isaiah Voegeli (Hyannis, MA) totaled six catches for 62 yards.
Preseason All-American Shawn Loiseau (Shrewsbury, MA) led the way defensively once again with 15 tackles, including 10 in the first half. Special teams doomed the Warriors, as they saw two extra points blocked.
Osiecki finished with 199 passing yards, while DaCaro (83 yards) and Jones (75 yards) led the Charger rushing attack.
Merrimack hosts American International next Saturday at 1 p.m. in the first game of a two-game homestand.