Salve Regina University football met Anna Maria College for the first time ever and overcame an early deficit to build a 18-point second-half lead and hold on for a 37-34 final in the New England Bowl at Toppa Field. Reserve quarterback Sam Capodice (Berlin, Conn.) took over signal-calling duties in the second half and engineered three touchdown-scoring drives to earn Most Valuable Player Award for the Seahawks.
HOW IT HAPPENED
After the opening kickoff went out of bounds, Anna Maria drove 65 yards in 10 plays to take a 6-0 lead on David Robinson’s (Revere, Mass.) one-yard catch from Ryan Russell (West Springfield, Mass.). The drive took just under five minutes with Justin Brown (Hamden, Conn.) carrying the ball five times. Salve Regina went three-and-out on its first possession. Anna Maria got a pair of first downs on its next drive but on 3rd and 10 from their own 44, Ryan Russell was rushed by Jesse Lagrosa (Hillsdale, N.J.) and Michael Morin (Gillette, N.J.) batted down the short pass. Salve Regina took over on its own 30 following a Patrick Woodford (Spring Lake Heights, N.J.) return of five yards from a Ryan Kent (Marlton, N.J.) 31-yard punt.
Jake Stack (Campbell Hall, N.Y.) carried on 2nd and 3rd downs for eight and 45 yards, respectively, to move the ball to the Anna Maria 17. A Thomas Cea Jr. (Sayville, N.Y.) 10-yard rush gave the Seahawks 1st-and-Goal at the AMCAT seven-yard line, but a sack made it 3rd-and-Goal from the 18. Stack struck for a touchdown when he found a leaping Josh Letellier (Groton, Conn.) in the endzone.
Salve Regina’s subsequent drive started at its own 29 with under a minute to go in the quarter. Stack connected with Marcelino La Bella (Windsor, Conn.) for a 28-yard gain to put the ball near midfield. At the start of the second quarter, a pair of completions (4 and 45 yards) to Letellier got the Seahawks to the one-yard line. The AMCATS’ defense stopped Stack for a negative rush and two incompletes so the Seahawks settled for a 22-yard field goal from Vaughn Randle (Leominster, Mass.) to take a 9-6 lead.
Mark Johnson Morgan’s (Irvington, N.J.) 33-yard kickoff return put the AMCATS in business at midfield. Six plays later Anna Maria was back on top with Jamal Cariglia (South Portland, Maine) finishing with a nine-yard run. Russell had called his own number and carried the ball 21 yards into the redzone.
Salve Regina marched 68 yards on nine plays in five minutes but a fumble gave the ball back to Anna Maria inside the 10 with 4:00 on the clock. Russell completed a first-down pass to Robinson before Lagrosa had a tackle for a loss. Anna Maria regained a good chunk on the next pass completion but a 3rd-and-2 pass fell to the turf to force a punt. Kent leaped for the high snap and managed to swing his left leg into the punt that was stuffed by the Seahawks. Salve Regina basically had the ball back where it had fumbled 97 seconds earlier.
Five rushes by Cea (the final after a one-yard loss by Stack carrying the ball) totaled 14 yards and a touchdown as time expired in the half. Randle’s extra-point kick put the Seahawks up 16-12 at the break.
Sam Capodice (Berlin, Conn.) took over at QB in the second and took his first snap from scrimmage for a two-yard rushing gain. The Seahawks gained a first down on the next rush after recovering their own fumble. Matthew Lavoie (West Bridgewater, Mass.) took over at RB and promptly had back-to-back carries of seven and nine yards to bring the ball into Anna Maria territory. Capodice’s first pass attempt was completed for eight yards to Letellier. Capodice completed another pass to Jacoby Smith (Middletown, R.I.) for a first down at the Anna Maria 22. A false start flag moved it back five yards and the Seahawks went for it on 4th-and-12 from the 24 with Capodice scrambling to find Kyle Crampton (Merrimack, N.H.) at the 10 and the sophomore receiver dove into the endzone. Despite a taunting penalty moving the PAT attempt 15 yards back, Randle split the uprights for a 23-12 advantage.
Dennis Duffy (Brighton, Mass.) intercepted the next Russell pass and the Seahawks had 1st-and-Goal in short order. Capodice rushed for four yards and then Lavoie carried twice for two and four yards, the latter finding paydirt and a 30-12 Seahawk lead.
Aided by a pass interference penalty, Anna Maria advanced to the Salve Regina 39 and Russell immediately targeted Robinson again for a 32-yard gain for 1st-and-Goal from the 7. Russell completed to Uthman Ajia (Central Falls, R.I.) for six points and Jamal Cariglia got two more points on the rushing conversion.
Tyler Pignio (River Edge, N.J.) returned the subsequent short kick nine yards to the Salve Regina 42 and the Seahawks started their final scoring drive with 4:20 left in the third. Lavoie rushed for 15 yards on first down, a false start penalty on the next play made it 1st-and-15 before Capodice gained 12 on his carry. Capodice tossed to Letellier for nine yards and Crampton for 11 yards for 1st-and-10 at the AMCATS’ 15-yard line. Lavoie rushed for eight and Keith Sutton (Blackstone, Mass.) rushed for four as zeroes showed on the clock to give Salve Regina 1st-and-Goal at the 3 at the start of the fourth quarter.
Lavoie got the ball on consecutive plays to finish the nine-play, 58-yard drive, with a two-yard scoring plunge. Randle’s kick made it 37-20 in favor of Salve Regina with 14:18 on the clock.
Anna Maria refused to go away and took six plays before Cariglia cut into the deficit with his second rushing touchdown. Salve Regina’s next drive started at 12:15 and Lavoie gained 19 yards on two carries, but three consecutive missed passes – the last on 4th-and-5 – gave the AMCATS the ball at 10:44 at their own 41. During an 11-play, 59-yard scoring drive, Russell completed seven of nine passes. Cariglia scored his third touchdown of the game to make it a three-point game, 37-34, with 6:14 left in the fourth.
Woodford gave Salve Regina a starting position near midfield with his 21-yard kickoff return. Salve Regina picked up three first downs to run out the clock. Lavoie and Sutton carried for the first new set. Jacob Hernandez (Pomfret, Conn.) went 11 yards on a sweep to the right on a 3rd-and-6 to the AMCAT 19-yard line. An unsportsmanlike penalty after the gain pushed the ball back to the 34 but it was still a first down for the Seahawks. The final critical play came on 4th-and-5 following an Anna Maria timeout with 1:01 left, and Capodice called his own number for a quarterback draw with no one in the backfield. He gained 11 yards for the first down that sealed the Seahawk victory.
Both teams totaled 25 first downs apiece.
Salve Regina outgained Anna Maria, 457 to 355 yards.
Ryan Russell completed 18-of-31 passes for 220 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.
Jake Stack quarterbacked the first half and completed 6-of-16 for 123 yards and one TD strike.
Sam Capodice connected on half of his pass attempts (6-of-12) for 63 yards and one TD strike.
Matthew Lavoie led all ground gainers with 84 yards on 14 carries, all in the second half. He scored twice on runs of 4 and 2 yards.
“A gritty team win – Jake (Stack) went down and everyone had my back going into the second half. It was a team win and I wouldn’t want to do this with anyone else.” — Salve Regina quarterback Sam Capodice, named MVP of the 2023 New England Bowl
“To hold the No. 5 passing offense in the country to less than 250 yards is great team defensive effort – and to see Sam (Capodice) and Matt (Lavoie) step in and lead the team and carry the ball is great way to finish out an exciting season.” — Seahawk head coach Kevin Gilmartin, reaching nine wins in a season for the first time and claiming his third postseason victory
ON THE HORIZON
Seahawks finish their 2023 campaign with most wins in a season (9) since 2012. The 1998 Seahawks finished 10-1 for the best record in program history. The 2024 Seahawks will begin their second year in the NEWMAC in September.
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