SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – November 10, 2007 -- Senior quarterback Chris Sharpe rushed for 276 yards and three touchdowns, and passed for a career-high 166 yards more and two touchdowns to lead Springfield College to a 54-42 Empire 8 victory over Norwich University this afternoon at Springfield’s Amos Alonzo Stagg Field. It was Senior Day at Springfield, and, appropriately, 50 of SC’s 54 points were scored by seniors, and all eight TDs were scored by members of the graduating class.
With the victory, Springfield ended its season with a disappointing mark of 4-6 overall, and 2-4 in the Empire 8, for a 5th-place finish in the highly-competitive league. It was the 150th victory of Head Coach Mike DeLong’s 26-year career (24 at Springfield). DeLong remains the winningest active head coach in New England Division III.
The Norwich University Cadets put up a great fight, despite finishing 2-8 overall, and 0-6 in the league. The 42 points were the most they had scored all season (previous high was 27 versus Mount Ida).
If offense tickled your fancy, then this was a game to see. The two teams produced a total of 1,073 yards, 594 for Springfield and 479 for Norwich. Junior RB Darnell Jackson (Miami, Fla.) rushed for 268 yards and three TDs for the Cadets, yet he somehow did not have the high rushing yard figure of the day.
That was reserved for Springfield’s Sharpe, the Derry, N.H. native, and 2006 Melberger Award winner, who was wrapping up his stellar career. On the day, Sharpe –
* ran for 276 yards, four yards shy of his Springfield College single-game record which he set last season at St. John Fisher.
* passed for 166 yards, a career high, surpassing the 149 he had at Utica earlier this season.
* ran and passed for 442 total yards, easily surpassing his own Springfield College single-game record of 375 yards vs. Union in 2006.
* became the first player in Springfield College history to surpass the 4000-yard mark in career rushing. He finished with 4,152 yards rushing, simply extending his own career record.
* finished with 1,360 yards rushing on the season, the second-highest single-season rushing figure in Springfield history. The only mark higher was Sharpe’s figure of 1,941 yards rushing in 2006. (FB Jay Miller’s mark of 1,348 in 2000 is third best).
* finished with 5,723 yards of total offense, which simply extended his Springfield College career record.
* with his three rushing TDs today, finished with 432 total career points, extending his own SC record in that category. On the year, Sharpe finished with 21 TDs rushing (one of the top figures nationally in that category) and a personal single-season best five passing.
Norwich received the opening kick and marched 59 yards on seven plays for the opening score. Sophomore WR Bill Valenzi (Amesbury, Mass.) scored on a 17-yard pass play from sophomore QB Chris Gilding (South Burlington, Vt.) just 2:14 into the contest. Sophomore Chris Seifert (Jackson, N.J.) then made the first of six extra point kicks.
Sharpe then scored on a 35-yard run with a bit of trickery. Sharpe lined up as a running back, took a pitch, and ran around left end and down the sideline for the first of his three rushing TDs on the day. Sophomore PK Chris Bush (Fly Creek, N.Y.) booted home the first of four extra points. It was 7-7 with 10:02 left in the first quarter.
Not long thereafter, the Pride began what turned out to be a 93-yard, eight-play drive, culminated by a 43-yard pass from Sharpe to senior HB Derron Walker (White Plains, N.Y.). And SC led, 14-7, with 5:19 left in the first.
But only 1:01 later, Jackson ran free down the left sideline for a 67-yard TD, and with 4:18 remaining in the first, it was all tied at 14-all.
With 14:11 left in the second quarter, Walker then scored on a 12-yard scamper around left end. But the extra point was no good following a bad snap, so SC led 20-14.
At 9:42 left in the second, Jackson scored on a 7-yard run as Norwich capitalized on a 4-play, 45-yard drive. Seifert’s kick was good, and the Cadets had retaken the lead, 21-20.
A key exchange came on the next series as Norwich first appeared to have scored on what appeared to be a 25-yard run by Jackson. But Jackson was credited with a 22-yard gain as the officials said he stepped out on the three. On the next play, Gilding fumbled, and sophomore NT John Ward (Stoughton, Mass.) recovered for SC on the four. Some 11 plays and 96 yards later, Sharpe ran it in from three yards out with 1:03 left in the half. A Walker two-point conversion gave SC a 28-21 halftime lead.
Jackson had run for 170 yards at the half for the Cadets, Sharpe for 136 for the Pride.
Norwich tried a surprise on-side kick to start the second half. But the play resulted in giving SC a short-field at the Norwich 47. Sharpe immediately ran for gains of 38 yards and eight yards. That set up a one-yard plunge by senior FB Dante Calabrese (Stamford, Conn.), and SC led 35-21 with 13:50 left in the third.
That was the first of three Springfield touchdowns in a span of 3:59 early in the third quarter. Sharpe followed with a 10-yard run with 10:52 left. And senior HB Tim Brouillard (Plymouth, Mass.) followed that with a one-yard TD run with 9:51 left, right after he had been pushed out of bounds after a 15-yard gain.
Despite the 48-21 lead for Springfield at this point, the game was far from over. Jackson came right back with a great 37-yard run for touchdown after escaping the grasp of a tackler in the backfield. With 7:53 left in the third, it was 48-28. That was the score at the end of three quarters.
On the first play of the fourth period, Sharpe got another senior into the act when he fired a perfect 43-yard pass for touchdown down the middle to WR Erich Timmerman (Middletown, N.Y.). It was Sharpe’s fifth touchdown pass of the season and second of the game. It was Timmerman’s 18th reception and second TD of the season.
Yet Norwich refused to fold. The Cadets scored two more TDs, the first with 12:11 left by senior TE Justin Collens (Manchester, Mass.) on a fourth-down play on a 5-yard pass from Gilding. That made it, 54-35.
Finally, Gilding fired a 30-yard TD to sophomore RB Dom Sorrentino (Wakefield, Mass.) on another fourth-down play with 2:39 left. That put the finishing touches on this 96-point afternoon. An on-side kick failed, and SC was able to run out the clock.
Almost lost in the shuffle were two interceptions by SC senior CB Joe Harasymiak (Waldwick, N.J.), tying the Springfield College career record of 17, previously set by Keith Sweeney (1991-1993). Harasymiak’s second interception of the contest, his record-tying pick, came with all of 5:39 left in his career.
Sophomore FS Jarred Burrell (Cranston, R.I.) also had an interception for the Pride. Overall, SC’s top tackler was junior ILB Tom Caporale (Closter, N.J.) with eight. Junior OLB Sean Richey (Setauket, N.Y.), junior DB Miles Daniels (New London, Conn.), and senior OLB Brian Hess (Kingston, Mass.) all had seven tackles.
For Norwich, freshman Zach Sucharski (Cheektowaga, N.Y.) led all tacklers with 13. Sophomore LB Dan Reale (Burlington, Mass.) followed with 12. Junior DE Richard Cumby (Shalimar, Fla.) had 11.
Springfield rushed for 428 yards, Norwich for 313. Each team passed for 166 yards. Sharpe ran the ball 38 times (just five off the SC single-game record). He completed 6-of-13 passes for 166 yards and two TDs. Calabrese ran for 57 yards and one TD, Brouillard for 50 yards and one TD, and Walker for 41 yards and one TD. Timmerman caught five passes for 97 yards and one TD. For Norwich, Gilding was 14-for-29 for 166 yards and three TDs with three interceptions.