SPRINGFIELD, Mass., September 23, 2006 – Chris Sharpe rushed for 235 yards and a school-record-tying five touchdowns to lead the Springfield College football team to a 41-34 Empire 8 Conference victory over Alfred University this afternoon at SC’s Benedum Field.
As a result, Springfield raises its record to 3-0 overall and 1-0 in the Empire 8, while Alfred falls to 2-1 overall and 0-1 in conference play.
Sharpe, a junior quarterback from Derry, N.H., had a tremendous individual performance on the afternoon. He scored touchdowns of five, 12, eight, 50, and 15 yards. His last TD was remarkable in that, on a fourth and one from the Alfred 15-yard line, and with the score 34-27 in Springfield’s favor, he began the play by handing the ball off to sophomore fullback Andrew Jackson (Pennsville, N.J.). But Sharpe never strayed far from Jackson’s side. When he saw Jackson was being stood straight up by the Alfred defense at the line of scrimmage, Sharpe had the imagination to steal the ball back from his own teammate and run around right end into the end zone for a score that gave SC a 14-point lead.
That score allowed Springfield to withstand Alfred’s last touchdown that came with 11 seconds remaining in the contest.
Sharpe tied the Springfield school record for most rushing touchdowns (five) in a single game. He tied QB Kevin Cahill’s mark of five vs. SUNY-Cortland on October 28, 2000, which was then tied by FB Tim Lutgens vs. Norwich on Nov. 8, 2003. Over the course of the last four games (including last year’s finale), Sharpe has now scored 15 rushing touchdowns. He has 11 rushing TDs this year thus far in three games. Entering the game, he was ranked #2 in the nation in rushing (204.5 yards per game). He emerges averaging 214.7 ypg.
Both teams came in unbeaten at 2-0. Springfield, the #2 rushing team in the nation, averaging 379.5 yards per game on the ground, marched 80 yards in eight plays following the opening kickoff. On the first play from scrimmage, Sharpe zipped 51 yards down the right sideline. He then culminated the drive with a five-yard jaunt up the middle. The extra point was wide, but SC led, 6-0.
Alfred responded later in the quarter (3:51 left) when junior tailback Elmer Newsome lunged in for a touchdown from three yards out. The kick was blocked and it was 6-6 at the end of one quarter. The drive went 73 yards on nine plays.With 13:15 left in the second period, Jackson bullied his way into the end zone from four yards out. Junior Joe Czarnecki (Shelton, Conn.) made the extra point, giving SC a 13-6 advantage. But with 6:19 left, Saxons’ junior quarterback Paul Keeley then hit senior tight end Matt Gibbins with a 10-yard scoring toss. And the extra point by junior kicker Chris Reynolds tied matters at 13-all once again. That last drive went 80 yards on 13 plays.
SC answered on the ensuing drive, a 68-yarder on nine plays, when Sharpe scored from 12 yards out. There was 2:53 left in the half. The Pride led 20-13 at the intermission.
On SC’s first possession of the second half, the Pride created a little separation. With 11:04 left in the third quarter, Sharpe scored his third TD on an eight-yard run, following a six-play, 57-yard march. With the extra point, it was SC 27, Alfred 13.
Alfred responded with an eight-play, 60-yard drive. Senior Don Miller, a 6-2, 310-pound defensive tackle from Leroy, N.Y., plunged in from one yard out on a third-and-goal, and Alfred closed to within 27-20 with 7:19 left in the third.
The next sequence was a key one in the contest midway through the third quarter. Springfield had a 30-yard gain on an end-around negated on a crack-back block, creating a third and 26 from its own 25-yard line. Sharpe immediately proceeded to rush for a 25-yard gain, creating a fourth and one. Sharpe kept the ball, somehow broke through the line, and sped 50 yards straight up the middle to the end zone. That made it, 34-20, with 3:20 left in the quarter.
Alfred was marching for what looked like another score when it fumbled at the SC five-yard line early in the fourth quarter (senior DE Mike Nicol of Hopkinton, Mass., recovering). But SC could not get a first down deep in its own territory, and was forced to punt.
Alfred took over on its own 40, and one play later scored. Keeley found freshman Jared Manzer on a slant pattern over the middle and the speedy wide receiver was gone for the 60-yard score. That made it close once again, as SC led, 34-27, with 9:27 remaining in the game.
Springfield then did what it does best, control the ball for long stretches. The Pride began what was to be a 14-play, 65-yard drive that ended with Sharpe’s magical 15-yard TD with 1:32 left. It proved to be the clinching score.
In team stats, Springfield had 23 first downs to Alfred’s 22, and possessed the ball 33:37 to 26:23. Springfield rushed for 486 yards (no yards in the air). Alfred passed for 237 yards and rushed for 159 more for a total of 396 yards on offense.
For Springfield, Sharpe rushed for 235 yards and five touchdowns on 20 carries. Jackson rushed for 121 yards and one touchdown on 26 carries. Junior HB Derron Walker (White Plains, N.Y.) rushed for 46 yards on 11 carries, and junior HB Tim Brouillard (Plymouth, Mass.) rushed for 39 yards on six carries.
For Alfred, Newsome led his squad in rushing with 75 yards and one touchdown on 17 carries. Freshman tailback Vinson Hendrix added 72 yards on 12 carries. Keeley was 18-of-30 passing for 237 yards and three touchdowns with a long of 60 yards. He was not intercepted (in this contest, there was only one turnover).
In terms of receiving, Gibbins caught four for 51 yards and one touchdown. Sophomore WR Trevor Bork caught four more for 46 yards. Hendrix added four more for 33 yards, and Manzor had three catches for 75 yards and one touchdown. Freshman WR Sacoubie Riley had two catches for 18 yards, including the five-yarder for a touchdown from Keeley with 11 seconds left.
On defense for SC, senior ILB Andrew Madigan (New Britain, Conn.), the reigning ECAC Division III Northwest Defensive Player of the Week, led his squad with 11 tackles and one forced fumble. Fellow senior captain and strong safety Kevin Fessette (Plattsburgh, N.Y.) had seven tackles.
For Alfred, senior DE Andy Rantz led his team with 11 tackles. He was followed by junior DB Josh Rammacher with 10 stops and senior LB Nick Gatto with eight.
Next week in Empire 8 play, Springfield hosts Utica at 1:00 p.m., while Alfred hosts Norwich at 1:30 p.m.