NORTH ANDOVER, MA –In a showdown for first place, the Merrimack football team led for three quarters, but #13 New Haven rallied with two fourth-quarter touchdowns to defeat the Warriors 44-35 Saturday at a rainy and cold Martone-Mejail Field.
Merrimack (5-3, 4-2 NE-10) finishes its home schedule 4-1 on the season and will conclude the regular season at AIC next Saturday and Southern Connecticut the following Saturday. New Haven, the top-ranked team in the region, improves to 7-1 overall and 5-0 in the league with the win.
Mike DeCaro led the way for New Haven with five total touchdowns, four on the ground and one in the air, and posted 148 total yards in the win.
After New Haven took the opening kickoff 61 yards in 10 plays to take the early 7-0 lead, James Suozzo (Everett, MA) picked up a pair of rushing touchdowns from three and 14 yards out to give the hosts the 14-7 lead after one.
Following a Charger field goal, Quinn McDonough (Medford, MA) took the ensuing kickoff 64 yards, and Joe Clancy (Newburyport, MA) took over from there, rushing into the end zone from three yards, pushing the lead to 21-10.
After Ryan Osiecki connected with DeCaro for a 22-yard touchdown pass, Suozzo found Isaiah Voegeli (Hyannis, MA) on a 3rd-and-17 for a 40-yard touchdown pass with 4:23 left in the second, bumping Merrimack's lead to 28-17.
The Warriors looked poised to increase their lead following a roughing the punter call, but Merrimack's 43-yard field goal was blocked with 19 seconds left, and Desmond Anderson returned it all the way to the seven-yard line, where Osiecki hit Jason Thompson with eight seconds left, giving Merrimack the 28-24 lead at halftime.
Merrimack racked up 257 total yards in the first half, 150 from Suozzo (110 passing, 40 rushing), to 127 for the Chargers.
Artis Holt (Baltimore, MD) opened the third quarter returning the kickoff 81 yards, giving Merrimack the 35-34 lead.
But Merrimack managed only 94 yards in the second half, as the weather conditions worsened.
DeCaro picked up his first of three second half rushing scores with 2:21 to go in the third, scampering into the end zone on a four-yard rush.
The sophomore then gave the Chargers their first lead since the 4:17 mark of the first, rushing into the end zone from nine yards out with 12:33 to play in regulation.
Merrimack proceeded to go three and out when they took over the ball with 6:50 to play, looking to regain the lead, and the Chargers went right back down the field, as DeCaro capped a seven-play, 64-yard drive with his fifth score of the game.
In his final home game, Suozzo finished 16-for-35 with 221 passing yards, while Isaiah Voegeli (Hyannis, MA) extended his streak of 100 or more receiving yards to eight straight games, with 124 yards, getting 38 in the final drive. McDonough totaled 50 rushing yards, tops on the team to go with 84 returning yards on punts.
Also playing his final home games, Shawn Loiseau (Shrewsbury, MA) added 13 more tackles to his all-time school record and moved into fourth place all-time in conference history in tackles. Michael Wiggins (Bolton, IL) was a force rushing the quarterback, notching two sacks and four quarterback hurries.
"We came out really strong and had a great first half," said head coach John Perry. "But we just couldn't get anything going offensively in the second and were forced to deal with the tough weather. It's a tough way for our senior class to go out, but they've done a great job over the last four years making Merrimack football an outstanding program."
Osiecki was 19-for-32 with 239 passing yards, while DeCaro rushed for 84 yards and added another 64 in the air.