Story and photo courtesy of New Haven Athletics
WEST HAVEN, Conn. - Senior wide receiver Jason Thompson (Indiantown, Fla./South Fork ) grabbed six catches for 104 yards and two touchdowns to lead the No. 13/16 University of New Haven football team to a 45-18 victory over Merrimack Saturday afternoon at Ralph F. DellaCamera Stadium. In front of a standing-room only crowd of 3,508, the Chargers improved their season-opening record to 4-0 in as many years.
The game opened slowly for the Chargers, who were forced to punt on their first possession. Merrimack took advantage of the opportunity and immediately got on the scoreboard. The Warriors took the ball 75 yards on 21 plays over the course of 6:25 and scored the opening points of the 2012 season. A five yard pass from Joe Clancy to Jere Brown capped the drive and despite missed the extra point off the left upright, Merrimack took a 6-0 lead.
On their second play of the ensuing drive, Ryan Osiecki (Seymour, Conn./Seymour / Univ. of Louisville) was sacked and brought up a long third-and-17 for UNH. Chris Ruffin (New York, N.Y./Phillip Randolph) caught a short pass for a seven yard gain and the Chargers were forced into a three-and-out on their second possession of the first quarter. The Warriors next drive was also stalled by the UNH defense and the Warriors were forced to punt. A 32-yard punt rolled out of bounce and UNH earned its third possession of the opening quarter.
Over the next four minutes, the Chargers marched 89 yards on eight plays to even the score at 6-6. The drive spanned two minutes into the second quarter and included two catches by Josh Smart (Hamden, Conn./Hamden ). Thompson tied the score at six with a 15-yard strike from Osiecki. A Chris Scifo (Coral Springs, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas / Central Connecticut State University) extra point followed and gave the Chargers' the lead for good.
Merrimack's next drive began at the 12:58 mark of the second half at its own 15-yard line. The Warriors successfully made their way into Charger territory when an 11-yard carry by Quinn McDonough ended with a fumble. Herbens Antenor (Malden, Mass./Malden) caused the fumble and Kendrick Butler (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Dillard / ASA College) recovered at the Chargers' own 20-yard line. The senior hit full stride and returned it all 80-yards to for a touchdown, but two UNH penalties after the change of possession brought the ball back to the UNH 11-yard line.
Starting the drive at the 10:49 mark, New Haven again marched all the way down the field in just under six minutes. Thompson and Osiecki once again connected for a 54-yard strike to give the Chargers' first-and-goal from Merrimack's three-yard line. After the Warrior defense stopped UNH on two plays, Mike DeCaro (Weston, Fla./Cypress Bay ) broke across the endline and gave the Chargers a 13-7 lead. Scifo again connected on the PAT and UNH took a 14-6 lead.
Merrimack began their ensuing drive at its own 10-yard line and after advancing it to the 36, Tom Herd (Sparta, N.J./Sparta ) made the play of the afternoon. The senior defensive end tipped a Merrimack pass into the air, intercepted the ball and returned it 27 yards for New Haven's third touchdown of the quarter. Scifo gave UNH a 21-6 lead with an extra point through the uprights.
The Warriors gained possession again at their own 25-yard line after Scifo's kickoff sailed to the back of the endzone. Merrimack took the ball to New Haven's 45-yard line, but the drive stalled when Herd gave back-to-back pressure on Merrimack's quarterback. The Sparta, N.J. native sacked Luke Bakanowsky for a loss of four yards and force Merrimack into a fourth and nine. Merrimack would punt away the ball to New Haven's 26-yard line, where UNH began its next drive of the quarter with 1:45 left in the half. Osiecki completed one pass to Chris Ruffin (New York, N.Y./Phillip Randolph), but then was intercepted by Ervin Johnson who took the ball 30 yards for a Merrimack touchdown. The Warriors' extra point was then blocked by Raheem Stanley (Hartford, Conn./Weaver ) and the Chargers held on to a nine-point, 21-12, lead.
New Haven wasn't finished scoring the second quarter, despite having just over one minute left on the clock. The Chargers went 29 yards in eight plays to the Merrimack 28-yard line before Scifo connected on his first field goal of the season from 45-yards out. With a 24-12 lead, New Haven kicked the ball off to the Warriors and time expired on the first half.
Merrimack opened the second half with the ball and put together a very productive drive. Quarterback Joe Clancy connected with Isaiah Voegeli for a 37-yard strike and a UNH penalty pushed the ball inside the red zone for Merrimack. The Warriors earned a first down at the 16-yard line and four plays later the Charger defense came up with another big stand, forcing a turnover on downs.
The Chargers once again capitalized, marking 92 yards on 12 plays to take a 31-12 lead. The Chargers drive took up over six minutes of the third quarter and was highlighted by nine rushing plays, including the two-yard touchdown rush by DeCaro with six-minutes left in the third.
Merrimack earned one first down on its next drive, but was forced to punt after three incomplete passes from its own 35-yard line. The potent Charger offense took just two plays to earn its next touchdown. Osiecki connected with Demetrius Washington-Ellison (Rahway, N.J./Rahway / Univ. of Maine) on a 45-yard pass and catch, bring the ball to the Merrimack 3-yard line. Quarterback Ronnie Nelson (Stuart, Fla./South Fork ) finished it off with a three-yard quarterback keeper. Scifo's point after gave New Haven a 26-point lead, 38-12 with 3:41 left in the third.
The final drive of the third quarter belonged to the Warriors. Merrimack added six more points with an 11-play, 61-yard drive which was capped by a seven-yard rush by Zach Ingalls. Both teams then exchanged punts before New Haven took the ball with 12:11 left in the game. Seven plays later, Osiecki and Thompson connected from 15-yard out on their second touchdown of the day. Scifo completed his sixth extra point of the game and gave the Chargers a final score of 45-18.
Merrimack's final possession of the game brought it down to New Haven's 2-yard line, but on fourth-and-one, Bernard Risco (Philadelphia, Pa./James Hillhouse) intercepted Clancy in the endzone and sealed the 27-point victory for UNH.
Thompson led the offense in the win with six catches for 104 yard and two touchdowns. Osiecki went 20-for-27 with 256 yards and two touchdowns. He was sacked three times as well. Victor Jones (Paterson, N.J./Passaic County Tech) led the UNH rushing attack with 71 yards on six carries.
Defensively, Antenor led the Chargers with 12 tackles, including 11 solo stops. Richard Long (New Rochelle, N.Y./New Rochelle / Iona College) chipped in with 10 solo stops, while Herd finished with two sacks, an interception and a touchdown.
New Haven will return to action on Saturday, September 8 when it travels to Saint Augustine's College in Raleigh, N.C. Game time at Durham County Stadium is set for 7 p.m. Stay posted to NewHavenChargers.com throughout the week for complete coverage.