CASTLETON, Vt. – A season-best point total for the Castleton University football team was not enough on Saturday as it engaged in a shootout with one of the top offenses in the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference, but came up short as Maritime (N.Y.) downed the Spartans by a final score of 68-41 in the homecoming game at Dave Wolk Stadium.
Moe Harris had another outstanding game for Castleton, rushing for 173 yards and three touchdowns while adding 16 yards receiving and 70 yards on kick returns to eclipse the 200-all-purpose-yard mark for the third time this season. A 36-yard scamper on 4th-and-3 pushed Harris to more than 3,500 career rushing yards. Mitchell Caron was 4-of-7 passing the ball for 99 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while Jacob McCarthy completed 5-of-12 passes for 69 yards and an interception. Ryan Barry reeled in four catches for 52 yards and a score, while Zachary Licata, Anthony Martinez and Jared Brockway pulled in catches that went for 20-plus yards on the day. Brendan Burrell added Castleton's other receiving touchdown, hauling in a 19-yard score from Caron.
Grant Cummings had a nose for the ball all afternoon, racking up 11 total tackles and a fumble recovery that he returned nine yards to set up a Spartan score. Nick Reca was a force in the defensive backfield, piling up nine solo tackles and a pass breakup, while Ethan Sherwood had seven solo tackles and a pass breakup. Chris Rice logged six total tackles, including one for a three-yard loss. He now has 13.5 tackles for a loss this season, tying him with Bubba Collins and Jakob Trautwein for most tackles for a loss in a single season. Rice and Kyle Ford also factored into the special teams equation as each of them blocked an extra-point attempt in the fourth quarter.
Maritime was a perfect 9-for-9 on third down on the day, while Castleton went just 3-for-9 in the same scenarios. The Privateers racked up 613 yards of total offense, though Castleton managed 367 yards of offense—including 199 yards on the ground—while time of possession was nearly even.
Both offenses were rolling from the opening kickoff, as neither team punted in the first half of action. Maritime marched down the field 68 yards in eight plays to open the game, capping the drive with an 11-yard touchdown run by Nicholas Morman. Ian Ziemski nailed the extra point to give the visitors a 7-0 lead. On the ensuing Spartan possession, Castleton faced a 4th-and-13 and lined up to punt. Instead of punting, Mike Morgan lofted a pass in the direction of an open Zak Pollicino, though the ball fell to the ground causing a turnover on downs for the Spartan offense. The Privateers again took the ball down the field, finishing off a nine-play, 54-yard drive with a six-yard touchdown pass from Thomas Wright to Matthew Cebulski. Ziemski added the extra point to give Maritime a 14-0 lead that it carried through the end of the first quarter.
Castleton possessed the ball to open the second quarter and quickly punched the ball into the end zone. After McCarthy hit Martinez for a 22-yard strike, Harris toted the ball three consecutive times and finished off the drive with a one-yard touchdown between the tackles. Andy Kenosh added the extra point for Castleton to halve the Maritime lead, 14-7. An illegal block in the back on the ensuing kickoff pushed the Privateers back to their 10-yard line, and Castleton put the pressure on quickly on defense. A botched snap was pounced on and returned nine yards by Cummings down to the Castleton two-yard line. The turnover was the spark the Spartans needed, as Caron punched it in on the first play, scoring on a two-yard keeper to knot the game up at 14-14.
The two sides traded blows following the second Castleton score, as Maritime made it 21-14 on a three-yard score by Morman before Harris answered with an 18-yard score in which he shed multiple would-be tacklers en route to the end zone, tying the game once more.
Both sides again went punch-for-punch, as Kahlil Lewin broke off a 61-yard run to give Maritime a 28-21 lead. Castleton answered quickly after a 36-yard kick return by Harris gave it prime field position at its own 49-yard line. Following back-to-back Harris carries that netted the squad 26 yards, Caron connected with Barry for his first passing touchdown of the day, bring the game back to level, 28-28, after the extra point.
With time winding down in the first half, Maritime began its drive at its own 42-yard line. Wright opened the drive with a 16-yard scramble for a first down before finding Brandon Drumgole for 11 yards. An incompletion and a six-yard rush had the Privateers facing a third down, but they converted as Castleton was flagged for pass interference, giving Maritime a first down at the Castleton 10-yard line. Wright looked to the end zone twice, coming up empty both times to bring up yet another third down on the drive. With his team facing 3rd-and-goal from the 10-yard line, Wright found Lewin over the middle for a score that put the visitors up 35-28 with just 30 seconds to play in the half, a score that held into the break.
Castleton received the kickoff to open the second half trailing by just one score, but quickly found itself in trouble as the Privateers' Karl Riek picked off an underthrown pass by McCarthy on the far sideline, giving Maritime the ball at the Spartans' 41-yard line after a short return. The Privateers turned that into points, punching the ball in on a four-yard run by Wright to make it a two-touchdown lead, 42-28. After Castleton was forced to punt it away—the first punt of the game by either side—the Privateers opened up its largest lead of the day when they marched 74 yards in 11 plays, punctuated by a two-yard rushing touchdown from Lewin to make it 49-28.
Maritime found the end zone again early in the final quarter, as Wright connected with Cormac Quigley for a 29-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown. Ziemski's extra-point was blocked by Rice, holding the score at 55-28. The offensive onslaught continued for Maritime, as Joseph Butterworth entered the action and found Christian Castle for a four-yard touchdown to open it up to 61-28 in favor of the guests. Ford came around the edge, blocking a second-consecutive extra-point attempt from Ziemski to hold the score where it was.
The Spartans got back in the scoring column on the following drive, taking it 50-yards in seven plays for a score. Harris opened the drive with three carries for 25 yards, before Caron added an eight-yard run of his own. After a pair of plays that made no progress, Caron found Burrell for a 19-yard score to cut into the deficit, 61-35.
The Privateers' offense went back to work following Castleton's touchdown, as Butterworth led the team down the field in five plays, highlighted by his 44-yard touchdown run down the near sideline. An extra-point conversion made the 68-35, but the Spartans were not done yet.
Starting with the ball on its own 41-yard line, Castleton took the 59 yards in just six plays—with every yard gained coming from five Harris carries. The senior broke off a 13-yard run for his third touchdown of the day, making it a 68-41 game after the Privateers blocked Kenosh's extra-point try.
Castleton is at home again next week, taking on ECFC-leading Husson at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 27.