CASTLETON, Vt. – Castleton University scored 13 unanswered points in the final seven minutes of the first half to pull to within two at halftime, but Salve Regina used its strong running game and opportunistic defense to pull away with a 49-19 victory Saturday afternoon in a non-conference collegiate football game at Spartan Stadium.
Making his first career collegiate start, Mitchell Caron finished 18-of-27 for exactly 300 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. Soren Pelz-Walsh led the Spartan receivers with six catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns, while Darren Callan tied his career high for total tackles with 19, finishing just one tackle off the single game school record for the second time in three weeks.
Salve Regina (2-0) took the opening kickoff and marched down the field for an eight-play, 76-yard drive, capped by a 10-yard touchdown pass from Brandan Basil to Sam Pascale. Later in the first quarter, Caron and Pelz-Walsh connected on an 80-yard touchdown pass to bring the Spartans within one at 7-6, but the Seahawks blocked the PAT attempt to remain ahead.
On Salve Regina's next drive, Basil found Mick Pernell for a 51-yard completion, and then James Dawson punched it in from nine yards out to extend the Seahawk lead to 13-6. After Castleton went three-and-out, the Seahawks put together another long drive that spanned the end of the first quarter and the start of the second quarter, a 12-play, 85-yard drive capped by a one-yard touchdown run by Dawson to give Salve Regina a 21-6 advantage.
The Spartans responded with an 11-play, 75-yard drive of their own, featuring a 35-yard completion from Caron to Makai Hawkins that brought the ball to the Seahawk three-yard-line. On third-and-goal, Caron would tuck the ball under his arm and fight into the end zone, closing the gap to 21-13 halfway through the second quarter.
As time wound down in the second quarter, Caron connected with Anthony Porcelli for completions of 41 yards and 21 yards to set up first-and-goal at the Seahawk five-yard-line. Caron would find Pelz-Walsh on a fade route in the corner of the end zone to bring the Spartans within two, but Castleton could not convert on the two-point attempt that would have tied the game.
A short Castleton punt gave Salve Regina decent field position for its first second-half drive, and Basil found Tommy Seaver for a 23-yard pass that brought the Seahawks into Spartan territory. The visitors ran the ball the rest of the drive, with Pascale running the final two yards to extend the Seahawk lead back to nine at 28-19.
On Castleton's next drive, three straight completions by Caron and a Seahawk pass interference penalty advanced the ball to the Salve Regina 31, but three straight incomplete passes stalled the Spartan drive. The Seahawks again used the running game to its advantage, keeping the ball on the ground all nine plays of their next drive, capped by a 13-yard touchdown run by Dawson to give Salve Regina a 35-19 advantage.
Caron's first mistake of the game came with three minutes left in the third quarter, as he was picked off by Cory Betz, who returned the interception to the Spartan 34. The eight-play, 34-yard drive was punctuated by a four-yard touchdown pass from Basil to Seaver at the start of the fourth quarter.
The ensuing kickoff was muffed and recovered by Salve Regina's Tristan Perez on the Castleton 24, and the Seahawks used five running plays to punch it in for their seventh and final touchdown of the game, as a Pascale fumble at the goal line was recovered by Seaver in the end zone.
The major difference in the game came on the ground, as the Seahawks compiled 286 rushing yards while holding Castleton to just 16 yards rushing. Pascale earned 135 yards on 25 carries, while Dawson finished with 129 yards on 22 carries. Basil completed 14-of-23 pass attempts for 244 yards and two touchdowns.
Besides Callan's 10 solo and nine assisted tackles, Jakob Trautwein finished with 14 total tackles (5 solo, 9 assisted), and Mark Alberque collected 11 total tackles (3 solo, 8 assisted). Nathan Gonzalez led the Seahawk defense with eight total tackles, including six solo tackles. As a team, Salve Regina finished with eight tackles for a loss, as it did not allow a point in the second half.
Rob Lineberger enjoyed a solid punting performance, averaging 39.7 yards per punt on six kicks, including a 68-yard punt, just two yards off his personal best, and four punts within the 20-yard-line, including a punt downed at the Salve Regina one-yard-line.
After a bye week, Castleton (0-3) begins Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) play Saturday, Oct. 1, against Anna Maria starting at 1 p.m. at Spartan Stadium.