CASTLETON, Vt. – The Castleton University football team used a balanced attack to open an early lead, and the Spartan defense held its opponent at bay through the vast majority of the game, as Castleton defeated Anna Maria, 23-13, Saturday afternoon in a Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) contest at Spartan Stadium.
Castleton accumulated a season-high 408 yards, 209 yards rushing and 199 yards passing. Moe Harris finished with 202 yards rushing, the first Spartan to earn more than 200 yards rushing in a single game since Tyler Carpenter ran for 298 yards at Becker College Oct. 31, 2009. Mitchell Caron completed 17-of-29 passes for 199 yards and a touchdown to Soren Pelz-Walsh, who caught six passes for 121 yards.
Defensively, Jakob Trautwein led the Spartans with 17 total tackles and an interception, while Tyler Sturtevant and Darren Callan finished with 10 tackles apiece, with Sturtevant forcing a fumble and Callan picking off an AMCAT pass during the day.
After Trautwein's interception on the third play of the game, Castleton drove down the field deep enough to give Ryan Payne a shot at a 27-yard field goal, which he made. Callan's interception led to the first touchdown of the game, a two-yard plunge into the end zone by Harris with 5:49 remaining in the first quarter.
Late in the first quarter, after Anna Maria failed to complete a field goal attempt, Caron found Pelz-Walsh on back-to-back passes, the second a 60-yard completion into the end zone to extend the Castleton lead to 17-0. In the second quarter, Anna Maria put together an 11-play, 68-yard drive to the Castleton 18, but Tyler Higley blocked a field goal attempt to keep the AMCATS off the board.
As time wound down before halftime, Anna Maria embarked on another long drive, going 75 yards in 14 plays, helped by a Castleton penalty that nullified a fumble that was recovered by the Spartans. Anna Maria quarterback Darius Jones-Clark (Baltimore, Md.) found Vincent Iaquinta (Oceanside, N.Y.) all alone in the end zone for a two-yard touchdown pass with 5.5 seconds remaining in the second quarter, cutting the Castleton lead to 17-7 at halftime.
Castleton received the opening kickoff of the second half and marched down the field, led by an 18-yard completion from Caron to Pelz-Walsh and a 47-yard run by Harris to the one-yard line. Caron kept the ball and punched it in for the Spartans' third touchdown of the game, increasing their lead to 23-7.
Anna Maria drove into Castleton territory late in the third quarter, but Jones-Clark threw his third interception of the game, as Joe DeAlesandro picked him off at the Castleton 11 to stop that drive. The AMCATS had another opportunity to cut into the Spartan lead, moving the ball all the way to the Castleton 15 before turning the ball over on downs.
Harris ran the ball nine consecutive times on Castleton's next possession. However, he lost the ball on that ninth carry, and Alex Geiger (East Providence, R.I.) was able to grab it and race down the field into the end zone for a 61-yard fumble return. Anna Maria failed on the ensuing two-point conversion, and Pelz-Walsh recovered the AMCAT onside kick attempt to close out the game in Castleton's favor.
Jones-Clark finished the game 13-for-34 for 144 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions. Joseph D'Onofrio (Everett, Mass.) led the AMCATS on the ground with 80 yards on 22 carries, while Iaquinta collected four receptions for 30 yards and the short touchdown late in the first half.
As a team, the AMCATS compiled 292 yards of offense, including 148 yards on the ground. Defensively, Jarius Ransom (Williamstown, N.J.) led the team with 10 tackles. Stefano Marziale (Cranston, R.I.) also had 10 tackles, including a sack and a forced fumble.
With the victory, Castleton retains possession of the Helmet Trophy, established in 2009 when the Spartans faced Anna Maria in the initial game for each football program. Castleton is now 9-1 against Anna Maria, including a perfect 4-0 at Spartan Stadium.
Anna Maria's three-game road streak has now concluded and the AMCATS will be home for four of the next five weekends, beginning with next Saturday's 1:00 p.m. home game against SUNY Maritime.