It was Springfield’s sixth ECAC bowl win in as many opportunities and second straight. The Pride also notched wins in 1995, 2004, 2009, 2010 and 2012. Last year, the Pride beat Alfred University, 31-8 in the ECAC Division III Northeast Bowl Championship.
Joel Altavesta (Tewksbury, Mass.) was named the game’s most outstanding player, finishing the day with 19 carries for 60 yards and two touchdowns. The senior scored both of the Pride’s second half touchdowns.
The Pride finish the season 7-3 overall and closed out the year on a four-game win streak. The last time the Pride played Norwich was in the 2008 season finale where the Pride took a 28-16 road victory. Norwich finished the season 7-4 overall.
The play of the game came from Mike Varvara (Hopewell Junction, N.J.) late in the fourth quarter. Norwich scored a touchdown to come within one point with 3:38 left in the game, but Varvara blocked the extra point attempt, allowing the Pride to run out the clock for the win. Norwich kicker Wesley Medeiros had been a perfect 34 for 34 on extra points this season until Varvara’s block.
It took the Pride just two minutes to get on the scoreboard, scoring on the opening drive. Louis Fenaroli (Newtown, Conn.) rushed three yards for the touchdown and an early 7-0 lead for the Pride. Alex Martin (Torrington, Conn.) had a 38 yard carry to start the drive, as the Pride went 64 yards down the field on four plays.
Norwich answered back though on the ensuing drive. The Cadets began with rushes of 31 and 26 yards, both by Al Georgio (W. Greenwich, R.I.). The Cadets went 78 yards on eight plays. Norwich quarterback Keyen Foley (Hemet, Calif.) found Dan Jamieson (Morris Plains, N.J.) for the seven yard touchdown and a 7-7 tie with 9:43 left in the first quarter. The Cadets scored 21 unanswered points before halftime.
The two teams would later exchange turnovers, all within five yards of the end zone. The Springfield defense forced a fumble on their own one yard line, recovered by Dan Macalena (Congers, N.Y.), but gave it right back to Norwich, as Andy Mangin (Concord, Mass.) recovered a Springfield fumble on the Pride’s five yard line. The Cadets capitalized on the fumble recovery, as Foley found Matt Mulcahy (Essex, Vt.) in the end zone to take a 14-7 lead with 5:29 left in the first quarter.
The Pride had trouble taking care of the football, fumbling for a second-consecutive possession, which recovered by Norwich’s Michael Finney (Killeen, Texas) on Springfield’s 31 yard line. The Pride defense came out strong though, forcing the Cadets to turn it over on the Springfield one yard line after holding Norwich on fourth down. Joey Racioppi (Atlantic Highlands, N.J.) made a thunderous tackle on Norwich’s Pierre Noel (Manchester, N.H.) just shy of the goal line to take over.
The Pride offense couldn't put anything together on the drive and Norwich took over. Foley had a 12 yard completion to Mike Cavanaugh (Raymond, N.H.) on the next possession. The Cadets went for it on fourth and one came up with the first down as Foley completed a four yard pass to Mulcahy. Norwich followed up the fourth down completion with a 28 yard touchdown run by Georgio to take a 21-7 lead with 5:28 left in the first half. It was Georgio’s 18th touchdown of the season, a program record for Norwich.
On the Pride’s ensuing possession, Jonathan Marrero (Boston, Mass.) made a great pitch to Austin Bateman (Gansevoort, N.Y.) for a big first down for Springfield. On the next play, Martin rushed for 12 yards, and Bateman would later scramble to the four yard line on a 15 yard run. The Pride converted on second and goal as Marrero looked to throw, but took it into the end zone himself for a seven yard touchdown with 27 seconds left in the first half. Norwich led 21-14 at halftime.
The Pride forced yet another third-and-out halfway through the third quarter, taking over on the Norwich 41 yard line for its best field position of the game. Springfield's offense took advantage as Marrero made a critical 35 yard pass to James Poggio (E. Granby, Conn.) who came down on the one yard line to set up first and goal. Joel Altavesta (Tewksbury, Mass.) finished it off, rushing for a one yard touchdown to tie the game up at 21 points apiece with 5:32 left in the third quarter.
Patrick O’Connor (Sayville, N.Y.) made a huge play on defense for the Pride to start the fourth quarter, intercepting a throw by Foley and returning it 25 yards to the Norwich 40 yard line. Marrero was solid on the drive, rushing for 13 yards and a first down and completing a 16 yard pass to Jason Woods (Middletown, Conn.). Altavesta picked up his second touchdown of the day, rushing for another one yard score and a 28-21 lead with 11:04 left in the game.
On the next drive, a costly pass interference call gave the Cadets first down on Springfield 26 yard line, but Norwich picked up its own penalties for a false start and holding. The Cadets earned a first down on third and long as Foley completed a 19 yard pass to Cavanaugh and scored on a two yard touchdown run by J.D. Milan (Citrus Heights, Calif.) to come within a point. Norwich could have tied the game up with 3:38 left to play, but Varara’s heroic blocked extra point sealed the deal and the Pride led 28-27 with the clock winding down.
This year, Varvara has been spectacular on special teams. He recovered a blocked punt against Union and returned it for a touchdown. He also blocked a critical extra point against St. Lawrence in a 21-20 homecoming win.
Springfield had 298 yards of total offense, 241 of those on the ground. Martin finished the day with five carries for 69 yards, Bateman had seven carries for 29 yards and Fenaroli had 20 yards on seven carries. Marrero rushed for 64 yards on 16 rushes and was 3-for-4 passing for 57 yards.
Norwich finished the day with 289 yards of offense, 201 on the ground and 88 in the air. Georgio led the Cadets with 137 rushing yards on 21 carries. Foley rushed for 39 yards on 15 carries and was 9-for-18 passing with 88 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Mulcahy led all receivers with 45 yards on five catches. Cavanaugh had three receptions for 36 yards.