By Matt Noonan
FRAMINGHAM, MA – It’s often said that defenses wins championships, and on Saturday afternoon, Endicott College’s defensive unit exhibited why they were one of the best defenses in the New England Football Conference last season, as the Gulls picked off both Framingham State quarterbacks five times and recorded two touchdowns en route to a 34-7 victory.
Senior Andrew Lawson collected three of the five interceptions, and raced past the Rams offense for a 50-yard score in the final frame, while junior Andrew Holfinger accounted for one fumble recovery and one touchdown in the first half.
“Really it was all about those first downs,” Holfinger said of his team’s defensive performance. “We stuffed them on first down, forced them long second down [and] that really got them out of their groove.”
“[They] couldn’t really get anything going, which was good for us because then we could just sit back and wait on it and that’s exactly what we did,” added Holfinger.
Besides taking away Framingham State’s air attack, Endicott’s defense also honed in on the conference’s leading rusher from a year ago, Melikke Van Alstyne, who tallied 66 yards on 23 carries.
“Our game plan was to force them to beat us with the pass, and I thought we did a pretty good job [of executing it],” said Endicott head coach JB Wells. “I think both defensive teams probably had the same game plan, [but] ours worked out a little better.”
“What I’ve always said is this defense has a huge chip on their shoulder,” Wells added. “They’ve heard all along how they can’t be any good now that we don’t have Kevin Eagan, and I think that’s really good fuel for the fire over the course of the year and they’ve got a huge chip on their shoulder right now and they’re playing that way.”
Framingham State needed two offensive series before they reached the end zone, as the Rams capped off a 12-play, 80-yard drive with a touchdown pass from freshman quarterback Matthew Silva to senior Alexander Avery.
Endicott responded with two back-to-back scores during the final minute of the opening quarter, as junior Dylan Rushe kicked a 30-yard field goal before sophomore quarterback Drew Frenette connected with senior Mike Wheeler for a 21-yard strike following a Holfinger fumble recovery.
The Gulls then pushed ahead for good, as Rushe nailed a 50-yard field goal before Holfinger returned a 32-yard interception for a touchdown, which gave Endicott a 20-7 lead at the break.
“I’ve got the best kicker in America, so if I can line up and hit a 50-yarder, if Dylan tells me before the game, ‘Coach I’m good for 50-55 if we’re going this way,’ I’m going to pull the trigger,” Wells said of his kicker.
Entering the second half, Framingham State attempted to rally, but the Rams offense couldn’t convert a single point off a third quarter interception by junior Michael Altavesta or a fourth quarter fumble recovery by junior Brian Castellanos, which allowed Endicott the opportunity to muster two more touchdowns that secured the win.
“We’re going to have to look at [those sequences on film], we’re going to have to assess what our offensive line was doing, although I think it’ll be a combination of a lot of things,” explained Framingham State head coach Tom Kelley. “We have faith that we can run the ball, they did a nice job in shutting down our run today, but we’ve also got to be able to throw the ball. We’ve got to throw the ball to open up the run, [and] we weren’t able to do that.”
Saturday’s win also marked the second consecutive year that the Gulls have defeated the Rams in their season opener.
“I told the guys I’m proud of them, 34-7 is a great win, 3-0 is a great win, but to win and win the way that we did was good, but it would have been a lot better if we had done some of the things that we can control, so I’m looking forward to seeing how much we can improve from week one to week two,” said Wells.