NORTHFIELD, Vt. – Castleton University held a 10-point lead into the second half, but Norwich University was able to come from behind to defeat the Spartans, 35-27, Saturday afternoon in an Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) contest at Sabine Field.
Norwich (5-5, 5-2 ECFC) took the opening kickoff and drove the ball down the field, running the ball eight straight times. Patrick Brown broke away for a 31-yard touchdown run to give the Cadets a 7-0 lead four minutes into the contest.
Castleton answered right back, putting together a 17-play drive for 74 yards that took 5:19 off the clock. The Spartans went for it on fourth down twice, with quarterback Mitchell Caron keeping the ball both times, the second a one-yard plunge into the end zone to tie the game at 7-7.
After Norwich missed a field goal attempt, the Spartans put together another long drive, going 65 yards on 18 plays in 4:40. Castleton converted another fourth down when Caron completed a 16-yard pass to Soren Pelz-Walsh to move the ball inside the Cadet 20, and then Ryan Payne converted on a 32-yard field goal to give the Spartans a 10-7 lead.
Grant Cummings intercepted a pass by Norwich quarterback Philippe Bazinet and returned it 35 yards to the Cadet 20-yard-line. On 4th-and-6, Caron found Pelz-Walsh again for eight yards to keep the drive going, and Corey Brimmer would punch it in from one yard out to extend the Spartan advantage to 17-7, which would remain as the halftime score.
The Cadets took advantage of Castleton's only turnover of the game early in the second half, as Quincy Williams scored on a nine-yard run to cut the Spartan lead to 17-14. Castleton answered right back, going on a five-play, 77-yard drive highlighted by a 56-yard completion from Caron to Anthony Porcelli. Caron found Pelz-Walsh for a seven-yard touchdown pass as the Spartans extended their lead back to 10 at 24-14.
After an exchange of punts, Norwich once again closed its deficit to 24-21 as Aaron Conner ran it into the end zone from 10 yards out late in the third quarter. Conner scored again at the start of the fourth quarter, this time putting together a 27-yard run to give the Cadets a 28-24 advantage.
Castleton drove down the field for a 12-play, 68-yard drive, led by completions to Pelz-Walsh for 26 yards and 22 yards, but the drive stalled at the Cadet four-yard-line. Payne would be successful on a 21-yard field goal to cut the Spartan deficit to one at 28-27 with 10:12 remaining in regulation.
Norwich took 6:42 off the clock with a 13-play, 74-yard drive, running the ball 12 of those 13 plays to take time off the clock. Nicholas Benoit converted from one yard out, and the extra point gave the Cadets an eight-point advantage with just over three minutes remaining in regulation.
Castleton started its final drive at its own 30-yard-line, arrived at midfield on an 11-yard run by Brimmer, and then moved into the red zone thanks to a 12-yard completion to Ryan Barry and a 20-yard completion to Pelz-Walsh, advancing the ball to the Norwich six-yard-line. However, the Spartans were unsuccessful in moving the ball any further, as the Cadet defense buckled down and held off the offensive charge to solidify the victory.
Caron finished the game 25-for-46 for 284 yards, with Porcelli catching eight passes for 114 yards and Pelz-Walsh earning eight receptions for 112 yards. Brimmer carried the ball 28 times for 70 yards as Castleton earned 20 first downs and 356 yards of total offense.
Defensively, Darren Callan led the team with 18 total tackles, including 11 solo tackles, while Jakob Trautwein finished with 17 total tackles. Trautwein held onto the team lead in total tackles for the season with 142, now the Castleton single-year record, by one over Callan, who set the Spartan single-game and career tackle records during the season.
Castleton's season ends with a 4-6 overall record, including a 4-3 record within the ECFC.