Story and photo courtesy of Bentley Athletics
BUCKHANNON, W.Va. – Sophomore wide receiver Jeff Hill (Mansfield, Mass./Mansfield HS) caught touchdown passes of 33, 73 and 46 yards as Bentley University overcame an early 10-0 deficit and horrible weather and field conditions to best West Virginia Wesleyan College, 27-16, Saturday afternoon at Cebe Ross Field.
Hill finished with five catches for 196 yards, the most by a Falcon receiver since Dallas Mall had 201 against C.W. Post in November 2001. The six-foot-four, 205-pounder has averaged 36.9 yards on nine catches thus far this fall, with five of those good for touchdowns, and he has reached the end zone on eight of 15 career receptions.
While Hill was leading the way offensively, the Falcon defense was keeping the Bobcats under control most of the afternoon. They gave up only 196 net yards, 76 coming in the opening quarter, and allowed only one conversion on 22 third-down plays.
The combination of Hill, Guadagnoli and the defense boosted Bentley to 2-0 on the young season and stretched the team’s winning streak to four while halting the Bobcats’ 12-game home win streak, which dated back to 2009. WVW fell to 0-2 this season with its fourth consecutive loss overall.
West Virginia Wesleyan, which had won at Bentley last fall, leaped out to a 10-0 lead less than six minutes into the game. Junior Kasper Bernild (Copenhagen, Denmark) kicked a 32-yard field goal and starting quarterback Nate Montana (Concord, Calif.), Joe’s son, finished a short 20-yard drive, after a misplay on a punt, with a one-yard keeper. The Falcons stopped the Bulldogs once on that drive, but a roughing the kicker penalty on a failed field goal attempt kept the drive going.
Bentley had a chance to score its first points of the game on the opening play of the second quarter, but was unable to convert on a fourth-and-goal from the one. An illegal procedure penalty on the opening play of the second pushed it back five yards and a sack ended the scoring threat.
The Falcons finally cracked the scoreboard on their next possession, which started at the Bobcat 44 following a fake punt that was snuffed out. Three plays later, junior QB Danny Guadagnoli (Framingham, Mass./Framingham HS) teamed up for the first of three scoring strikes, this one a 33-yarder on a third-and-15 play with 12:47 left in the first half.
About nine minutes later, Bentley took the lead for good when Guadagnoli ran the ball in from the three on a fourth and two. Senior Sean Cross (Duxbury, Mass./Duxbury HS) played a key role on the nine-play, 55-yard drive with receptions of 30 and 18 yards, the latter coming on a third-and-13. Will Lockwood (Menlo Park, Calif./Sacred Heart Prep), also a senior, tacked on the extra point to make it a 14-10 game.
The performance of the defense in the final 90 seconds of the first half was a game-changer. After Guadagnoli lost a fumble while being sacked, Wesleyan took over the ball on the Falcon four. A delay of game moved it back to the nine, but after three plays produced only one yard, a pass interference call on Bentley gave the home team a first down at the three. Again, the Falcon D could not be penetrated and senior defensive end Matt Campo (Dedham, Mass./Catholic Memorial HS) ended the first half with by blocking a field goal, preserving the four-point lead.
Following three punts to open the third quarter (two by the Bobcats, one by the Falcons), the Guadagnoli-to-Hill combo teamed up again. This time it was for 73 yards and a 21-10 Falcon lead.
Wesleyan, scoreless on its previous eight possessions, replaced Montana with sophomore Jeremy Musselman (Wakersville, Md.), and he led his team right down the field with his four-year pass to freshman Nyme Manns (Curtis Bay, Md.) completing a quick seven-play, 70-yard drive.
Later in the third, Hill was again Guadagnoli’s target. This scoring strike covered 46 yards and completed the game’s scoring, restoring the differential to 11.
WVW had four possessions in the scoreless fourth quarter, but managed only one first down, that coming with about 90 seconds left.
Guadagnoli, who now has five touchdown passes in his two games as the Falcons’ starter, finished 9 of 19 for 256 yards in his second straight interception-free effort.
Junior linebacker Blaine Hopwood (New Bedford, Mass./New Bedford HS) led the defensive effort with a dozen stops, and classmate Taylor Tavarozzi (Berlin, Conn./Berlin HS) followed with eight.
Bentley, which was hampered by an uncharacteristic 102 penalty yards, finished with 319 yards total offense and had a 15-12 advantage in first downs. Senior Jack Pizzotti (Melrose, Mass./Melrose HS) had a strong day bringing back kickoffs, with a total of 100 yards on three returns.
Montana struggled through a 7-for-27 passing day before giving way to Musselman, who was 8 of 19. Combined, the two threw for only 156 yards on 46 attempts.
Bentley is back in action Friday night, with a 7 pm Northeast-10 game at Assumption College.