WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Castleton University football team mounted a late comeback attempt on Saturday afternoon against Gallaudet, but it was not enough as the Spartans came up short, falling by a final score of 35-25 at Hotchkiss Field in an Eastern Collegiate Football Conference contest.
Castleton (1-5, 0-2 ECFC) racked up 18 points in the fourth quarter, but the Bison (2-2, 2-0 ECFC) lead proved insurmountable as the hosts posted 28 second-half points after the two teams went into halftime tied at 7-7.
Moe Harris once again starred in the Spartan offense, rushing for two touchdowns and 114 yards on 25 carries for an average of 4.6 yards per carry. He added 32 yards receiving on one catch. Mitchell Caron and Jacob McCarthy split time at quarterback, with Caron completing 10-of-15 passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns, while McCarthy completed 11of-26 passes for 122 yards. Anthony Martinez pulled in a career-high seven catches for 78 yards and a touchdown, while Ryan Barry added six catches for 59 yards. Seth Gewanter was on the receiving end of Caron's other touchdown pass.
Castleton tied a program record with 12 tackles for a loss in the contest, marking the third time the milestone has been reached in the program's 10-year history. Chris Rice racked up three tackles for a loss as part of an eight-tackle day, tied for third-most in a single game in program history. Kyle Ford added six tackles, while Wyatt Prue and Jayson Gilsinger registered sacks for the Spartans. Cooper Bushey forced one fumble for the Spartan defense, and Gilsinger and Dustin Rock each added fumble recoveries in the contest.
The Gallaudet offense was powered by the two-headed monster of Cassmeir Hutchinson and Damonte Bray at running back, as the duo each eclipsed 125 rushing yards in the contest. Hutchinson led the way with 136 yards on just 13 carries, while Bray added 126 yards and a touchdown on 11 rushes. Quarterback Timel Benton had 49 rushing yards and a touchdown in addition to his 202 yards passing with two touchdowns. Joseph Mendis also registered one rushing touchdown to go with 19 yards on the ground. L.J. Watson pulled in two catches for 107 yards and a touchdown, while Dylan Menton was on the receiving end of three passes for 86 yards and a score.
Defensively for Gallaudet, Louie Akuffo totaled 10 tackles, while Mauricio Orozco and Demontrai Lewis had seven stops apiece. Lewis tallied the team's only sack. Jamie Cumberbatch locked down Castleton receivers as he was credited with a pair of pass breakups.
The game opened with six consecutive punts combined between the two teams, as both sides were scoreless after the opening 15 minutes. Gallaudet struck first on the opening play of the second quarter, when Benton found Watson for a 67-yard touchdown. The Jacob Guertler extra-point attempt was good, giving the home side a 7-0 edge.
Castleton bounced back on the ensuing drive, marching down the field 70 yards in 11 plays to even the game on a Harris rushing touchdown and an Andy Kenosh extra point. Castleton picked up five first downs on the drive, converting on three third downs in the process. The teams traded five more empty possessions to go into the halftime break knotted up at 7-7.
The Bison jumped out to another lead early in the third quarter, scoring on their first drive of the second half when Mendis punched it in from two yards out to cap a four-play, 86-yard drive for Gallaudet. Guertler converted on the extra point, making it 14-7.
Following a three-and-out by the Spartans, Gallaudet again pounced on an opportunity, taking it down the field 74 yards in three plays. The drive ended with a 69-yard hookup between Benton and Mento before Guertler extended the lead to 21-7 with an extra point.
The Bison continued to pull away early in the fourth quarter, when Bray broke off a 64-yard run to make it 28-7 in favor of Gallaudet. Castleton answered in a big way on the ensuing drive, taking it down the field in nine plays, covering 63 yards to cut the deficit to 28-13. The drive ended when Caron found Gewanter on a three-yard completion, though Kenosh's extra point was no good.
The Bison were not content with the 15-point cushion, however, as on the first play from scrimmage following the Castleton touchdown, Benton took off for a 62-yard touchdown scamper to put Gallaudet up by a 25-13 margin. Guertler nailed his fifth extra point of the day to cap the home team's scoring.
With time dwindling down in the fourth quarter, Castleton began its comeback attempt with 7:14 to play. McCarthy found Harris for a 32-yard catch and run to open the drive, before Castleton picked up 10 yards on a Gallaudet penalty. After a negative rushing play and an incompletion, Caron found Martinez for an 18-yard score on third-and-long to cut into the deficit. The Spartans went for the two-point conversion, but it was no good, putting the score at 35-19.
Castleton recovered the ensuing kickoff, as Kenosh hit a perfect onside kick that was recovered by Nick Reca at midfield, giving the Spartans possession once again. Caron opened the drive with back-to-back completions, moving Castleton into striking distance at the 34-yard line. A 14-yard connection with Martinez and an 11-yard rush by Caron put Castleton down to the 10-yard line, but a personal foul on the Spartans backed the ball up to the 25. Harris picked up eight yards on the play, and Castleton was aided by a Gallaudet penalty to push the ball back inside the 10-yard line. On second-and-goal from the 4-yard line, Harris punched it in for his second score of the day, cutting the lead to 35-25 in the process with just more than two minutes on the clock.
Castleton again tried the onside kick, but the Bison were ready and pounced on it just shy of midfield to retain possession. After back-to-back negative plays for Gallaudet, the Spartan defense had the Bison facing a third-and-19, but Bray broke free for a 19-yard carry—just enough for a first down—to put the game on ice.
Castleton's 26 first downs in the contest were its most since it put up 25 first downs in a game against Becker in 2015, while both teams converted five third-down attempts. Gallaudet's 528 yards of offense was the most allowed by Castleton this season, while the Spartans' 397 yards of offense was its second-highest total of the year. The Bison were flagged 12 times for 121 yards, while Castleton received nine penalties for 70 yards.
The Spartans return to Dave Wolk Stadium for their annual homecoming game next Saturday, October 20, against Maritime (N.Y.). Kick-off is slated for noon, while other homecoming festivities begin as early as 9 a.m.