Story and photo courtesy of Merrimack Athletics
– The Merrimack football team led at half 28-22 but were unable to hold on to the lead in the second half. American International scored with 2:46 remaining in the game to win by the score of 38-34 on Saturday afternoon at Ronald J. Abdow Field. Merrimack gained 446 yards of total offense in the losing effort.
Merrimack (5-4, 4-3 NE-10) will finish its season next Saturday with a road game at Southern Connecticut at 1 pm.
Kevin Arduino led the way for AIC with 261 total yards and three passing touchdowns.
Merrimack received the opening kickoff and went on a seven play 54 yard scoring drive that was capped off with a two yard scoring plunge by junior Jimon Hill (North Chicago, Ill.). The ensuing point after attempt was good to make the lead 7-0 in favor of the Warriors.
The Yellow Jackets would respond quickly to the Hill score as Arduino connected with Trevor Perryman on a 47 yard scoring strike. AIC would go for the two point conversion and were successful giving them the slight 8-7 lead with 8:08 remaining in the first quarter.
Hill would respond with his second rushing touchdown of the afternoon less than two minutes later as he scampered in from seven yards out. The two point conversion attempt was stopped just short of the endzone as quarterback James Suozzo (Everett, Mass.) was unable to get in. The Merrimack lead was pushed to 13-8.
After Bryant Fitzgerald rushed in from five yards out to give AIC the 14-13 lead, Suozzo connected with Isaiah Voegeli (Hyannis, Mass.) on a seven yard scoring strike, give Voegeli 13 receiving touchdowns on the season. Suozzo ran in the two point conversion to give Merrimack the 21-14 lead.
On the very next Merrimack offensive possession Suozzo connected yet again with Voegeli for a 25 yard touchdown to extend the Warriors lead to 28-14. Voegeli’s second receiving touchdown marked the fourth time in nine games he has recorded atleast two receiving touchdowns.
AIC responded with a touchdown of their own right before the end of the half as Arduino connected with Cal Brownridge for a 31 yard touchdown to cut the Merrimack lead to 28-22 at half.
The Warriors offense dominated the first half of play as they recorded 339 yards of total offense including 247 yards rushing. Merrimack had two runners over the 100 yard plateau rushing the ball in the first half as Suozzo had 102 and Hill had 120.
The third quarter was started with an Artis Holt (Baltimore, Md.) interception of Adrino returned 15 yards down to the AIC 22 yard line. The Warriors however were unable to capitalize on the great field position as Suozzo threw an interception at the AIC 10 yard line.
The third quarter was a back and forth affair with the defenses on both sides dominating play and forcing the opposing offenses to punt the ball away.
The fourth quarter began with another Perryman receiving touchdown from 10 yards out as Arduino found him open for the score, giving the Yellow Jackets the 30-28 lead with 12:14 remaining in the game.
Merrimack took the lead back with 10:11 left after a Michael Jones (Chicago, Ill) fumble recovery at the AIC 31 yard line. Suozzo ran the ball three times for 21 yards and a five yard scoring plunge to put Merrimack back on top, 34-30.
But Merrimack managed only 104 yards of offense in the second half as Fitzgerald ran another touchdown in to give the Yellow Jackets the 38-34 lead. Suozzo had an opportunity to lead his team down for the winning score but he was yet again intercepted at the AIC 31 yard line, sealing the game for the Yellow Jackets.
The Merrimack offense was led by Senior captain James Suozzo who finished the game 15-for-31 with 136 passing yards, 139 rushing yards and three total touchdowns. Voegeli continued his solid play recording six catches for 74 yards and two receiving touchdowns on the afternoon. Jimon Hill broke the 100 yard plateau for the third time on the season as he ran for 143 yards and two rushing touchdowns.
Shawn Loiseau (Shrewsbury, MA) added seven tackles to his all-time school record and giving him 108 for the season. Senior captain Tony Johnson (Lynn, Mass.) recorded a sack, giving him 7.5 on the season, six total tackles and a forced fumble. Ryan McCarthy (Newton, Mass.) led all Merrimack defenders with nine tackles, eight solo and one assisted. Holt racked up five solo tackles and his second interception of the season in the loss.
"I was really happy how we rebounded in the first half after last week’s loss," said head coach John Perry. “But we stalled in the second half for the second consecutive week. We can’t expect to win games if we only play one half of football.”
Arduino was 19-31 for 232 yards and three touchdowns, while Fitzgerald ran for 139 yards and two rushing scores. Perryman had eight receptions for 74 yards and two receiving touchdowns in the victory for AIC. Wausa Onigbanjo led the Yellow Jackets defensively with two interceptions and four total tackles.