MERRIMACK STUNS DIVISION I WAGNER IN SEASON OPENER, 42-41
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. – Trailing by six, 41-35, with just over five minutes to play, the Merrimack College football team, led by senior quarterback Joe Clancy (Newburyport, Mass.), orchestrated a drive for the ages that stretched 14 plays for 96 yards before finding classmate Shane Ferguson (Point Pleasant Beach, N.J.) for a three-yard, game-deciding strike, and that was enough to propel the Warriors past reigning Northeast Conference (Div. I) champion Wagner, 42-41, in an unforgettable Friday night battle at Hameline Field.
Score: Merrimack 42, Wagner 41
Records: Merrimack 1-0 | Wagner 1-1
Location: Hameline Field | Staten Island, N.Y.
How It Happened
After watching what was once a 15-point advantage evaporate against the host Seahawks, Merrimack bent but did not break, rallying from a 34-28 deficit midway through the fourth quarter to go back ahead by a point, 35-34, on a Clancy strike to classmate Greg Devine (Hanover, Mass.) with 8:15 left in the final frame.
But Wagner would respond on its very next drive, as Northeast Conference star Dominique Williams capped off a nine-play drive with a three-yard scoring run that handed the hosts the lead (41-35) with just over five minutes to play.
That, however, would not deter the Warriors, as Clancy and the Merrimack offense took over from their own five and calmly marched down the field, slicing and dicing through the Seahawks' defense with clutch play after clutch play, highlighted by a 20-yard rush from senior Quinn McDonough (Medford, Mass.) that brought the Warriors into Wagner territory.
After Clancy found sophomore Jere Brown (Freeport, N.Y.) for another 13-yard gain, putting Merrimack in the red zone, Clancy would need just two more plays, and finally, with just over 30 seconds left, Clancy found Ferguson on an out route to the right side, and the slot receiver sliced around the defense and crossed the plane to cap off Merrimack's biggest win in program history.
The Warriors stunned the hosts in the opening 30 minutes, starting with the very first play of the season for the Warriors, a 98-yard kickoff return from McDonough. The senior got a key block, beat his defenders through the gap and took it to the house to give Merrimack an early lead.
Wagner would march back to tie the contest 10 minute later following a Merrimack fumble, but not before the Warriors answered after Clancy found Frankie Dunn (Malden, Mass.) for a 13-yard swing pass around the left side to put Merrimack ahead again to close out the first quarter. Clancy would tack on two more scores, one on the ground and another in the air to Brown to push the Warriors up, 28-10, before the Seahawks conclude the scoring in the first half with a 47-yard field goal, cutting it to 28-13 in favor of the visitors at the break.
Wagner would reel off 21 uncontested points, including back-to-back touchdowns in the third quarter and one at the start of the fourth to give the home side a temporary lead, but that would only set the stage for the wild final eight minutes of regulation that ended with the Warriors on top.
A Closer Look
- Clancy, the nation's leading passer in virtually every category last fall, finished with four touchdowns and 309 yards on a 35-for-50 completion rate
- After holding a 280-134 advantage after the first half in total yards, Merrimack finished with a 433-418 lead in total offense, averaging 5.2 yards per play
- Williams led the Seahawks with 110 yards on the ground and two scores, with quarterback Matt Misley adding two more rushing touchdowns
- Misley finished 16-for-28 with one throwing score and 174 total yards for the hosts
- Brown led all Merrimack receivers with 102 yards, including a game-high 21-yard snag, while junior Nick Zwaan (Longmeadow, Mass.) was a perfect 6-for-6 in point after attempts
Merrimack opens up Northeast-10 Conference action a week from tonight, when the Warriors travel to preseason conference favorite American International for a Friday night battle on Sept. 13. Kickoff from Springfield, Mass., is set for 7 p.m.