By Matt Noonan
To secure two wins against a team in a span of three weeks is not an easy feat.
But somehow, the University of New Haven football team was able to come away with its second-straight victory over Bentley University this past weekend to secure a spot in the second round of the NCAA Division II postseason.
Connor Degenhardt registered four touchdowns in his team’s 38-13 win over the Falcons, including three rushing scores while finishing the contest with 38 yards on 11 carries. Zach Mauro led all rushers with 119 yards on 33 carries and Dev Holmes caught four passes for 104 yards and one touchdown.
Bentley, which was making its third appearance in the national postseason, secured its first and only lead early in the second quarter when Nathaniel Larkins capped an 18-play, 75-yard drive with a four-yard rushing touchdown.
Larkins’ touchdown, however, did not shift momentum toward the visitors as the Chargers countered with five touchdowns, including a pair of rushing scores in the second quarter by Degenhardt that provided New Haven with a 17-6 advantage that would expand over the next two frames.
While New Haven’s offense headlined an impressive opening round win, its defense did its job, holding Bentley to a season-low 13 points. Two weeks earlier in a game that determined the winner of the Northeast-10 Conference (NE10), Bentley registered 14 points while New Haven tallied 31.
The first-round victory over the Falcons secured New Haven a date with Kutztown University, which captured the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) title with a 10-1 overall record (the Golden Bears won all seven league matchups).
New Haven has won all three matchups with Kutztown, dating back to their initial meeting in 1994. The Chargers also beat the Golden Bears in the 2011 NCAA Tournament with the 44-37 victory providing New Haven a spot in the quarterfinals.
Kutztown, which secured an opening-round bye, has won nine-straight contests, including six games at Andre Reed Stadium. The Maroon and Gold are averaging 26.55 points per game while limiting opponents to roughly two touchdowns (13.91).
The Golden Bears are led by Eric Nickel, a quarterback from Bridgewater, New Jersey that has recorded 24 touchdowns this fall, including 11 on the ground.
On defense, linebacker Amani Justice is the player to watch – through 11 contests this fall, the redshirt-senior has recorded a team-best 87.0 total tackles, including 37 solo stops, 50 assists, and four quarterback hurries.
Saturday’s game will begin at 12:05 p.m. with the winner advancing to next Saturday’s quarterfinals.