Skyhawk Shocker: Stonehill Upsets I-AA Wagner, 14-13

Freshman Stephan Neville (Foxborough, Mass.) made an immediate impact in his first collegiate game, recording two tackles, an interception and returning a kickoff 29 yards to help Stonehill defeat Wagner, 14-13 on Friday evening.

Skyhawk Shocker: Stonehill Upsets I-AA Wagner, 14-13


Easton, Mass. - In what was quite possibly the largest crowd to ever watch a game at Stonehill's W.B. Mason Stadium, the upstart Skyhawks pulled off what could be considered the 21-year old program's biggest win, defeating Division 1-AA Wagner, 14-13, on a touchdown with a little more than a minute left to open up the 2008 season.

Senior quarterback Cruz Parsons (Signal Hill, Calif.), who earlier in the game-clinching drive converted a fourth and short, burrowed in behind his offensive line and crossed the plane of the goal line with 1:12 left and cap a clock-killing 20-play, 80-yard drive that ate up 10:32. Junior Brendan Gorey (West Islip, N.Y.), who entered the game with one career extra point made, split the uprights moments later to give Stonehill the lead.

After nearly recovering a squibbed Gorey kickoff, freshman Stephan Neville (Foxborough, Mass.) intercepted Wagner signal caller Adam Farnsworth down the right sideline on third and 20 with 13 seconds to go to seal the program's first win over a Division I-AA team in five tries.

The game started off slow for the Skyhawks, as they went three and out on the game's initial possession and then watched Wagner march down the field and turn a fourth and two into a 13 yard touchdown run for Shane Smith.

Senior Jeff Payne (West Haven, Conn.) got the Skyhawks going on their next series of downs, ripping off huge chunks of yards and advancing the ball to the Wagner 23 before a Parsons fourth down attempt was thwarted by the middle of the Wagner defense.

After trading possessions, the Stonehill defense made a stand of their own with Wagner attempting to convert a fourth and one deep inside Skyhawk territory. Sophomores Brad White (Bangor, Maine) and Brenden Taylor (Stoughton, Mass.) stopped Smith for no gain and then saw their offense make two huge plays to even the score.

First, Payne burst through the line for 24 yards and then Parsons connected with sophomore Eddie Vachon (Newton, Mass.) up the right sideline after he got behind his defender. Vachon then juked left and cut across the field, picking up key blocks from his wide receivers along the way, outracing the Wagner secondary into the endzone to knot the contest at 7-7.

After an unsportsmanlike penalty had Stonehill kicking off from the 15 yard line rather than the 30, Franz Placide set Wagner up with excellent field position at the Stonehill 36 following his 30 yard return.

Two plays later freshman Prince Young found a hole on the left side and streaked into the endzone, giving Wagner a 13-7 advantage, a lead that wouldn't increase after a botched snap and subsequent failed extra point attempt by Wagner.

With the half winding down, Wagner was forced to punt to Torrey Price (Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.) who gathered the ball in at the 37, made a few moves and appeared to outrace the Wagner special teams for a Stonehill touchdown but a penalty on the return nullified the score, leaving the game at 13-7 at halftime.

The game stayed that way through the third as both teams seemed content to run the ball as they rotated their running backs, with all the ballcarriers experiencing success.

Less than four minutes into the final quarter and after a Wagner punt, Stonehill took possession at their own 20 yard line and proceeded to methodically move the ball with Payne, Vachon and Parsons picking up yards on the ground and wearing down a tired Wagner defense. 17 of the 20 plays on the drive were runs as the Skyhawks converted three third downs and fourth and short along the way.

Parsons, who only went 5-for-7 for 80 yards in the contest, completed three key passes on the drive, including third down conversions to Jon Kaloyanides (Cranston, R.I.) and Vachon that went for first downs.

After Parsons' score, Wagner still had 1:10 left to get into field goal range, but an intentional grounding penalty on Farnsworth thanks to pressure from Clark Leger (Waltham, Mass.) set the visitors back and set up Neville's game-ending interception.

Payne rushed for 144 yard on 29 carries, meaning in his last two games, he has rushed for 306 yards. Vachon, meanwhile had 121 all-purpose yards (63 rushing, 58 receiving), helping the Skyhawks outrush Wagner 219-148. Stonehill also held the edge in total yards (299-224), time of possession (34:23-25:27) and passing yards (80-76).

Young and Smith had 77 and 70 yards respectively for Wagner, which got a stellar defensive performance from All-America Robert Brown, who turned in eight tackles, four and half for loss and three sacks.

Defensively for Stonehill, senior Greg Sanzari (Centerport, N.Y.) led the way with 10 stops and a sack and classmate Michael Greene (Plainview, N.Y.) added eight tackles.

The Skyhawks, now 1-0 on the season, travel to Pace next Saturday for a 12 noon kickoff with the Setters.