SPRINGFIELD, Mass.—Mike Varvara blocked a Norwich University extra-point attempt with 3:38 left in the game to help the Springfield College Pride escape with a 28-27 win against the Cadets in the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC) Division III North Atlantic Championship Bowl on Saturday afternoon at Stagg Field.
Norwich's Al Georgio (West Greenwich, R.I.) scored Norwich's third touchdown of the day on a 28-yard run to net his 18th touchdown of the season. With the score, Georgio becomes the sole holder of the Norwich program record for touchdowns in a season with 18. The previous record of 17 touchdowns was untouched for 34 years and was set in 1979 by Michael Crimmins '80.
Georgio led the Cadets offensively on the afternoon with 137 rushing yards on 21 carries. Keyen Foley (Hemet, Calif.) rushed for 39 yards and completed 9 of 18 passes for 88 yards and two touchdowns.
Georgio's touchdown gave the Cadets the 21-7 lead with 5:28 left in the first half, but the Pride scored 21 points on three straight touchdowns to take the 28-21 advantage with 11:04 to play in the fourth quarter.
Norwich ran 7:17 off the clock in the ensuing drive and used 14 plays to travel 67 yards to set up James-Dana Milan (Citrus Heights, Calif.) for the two-yard rushing touchdown with 3:38 to play. A bad snap on the extra-point attempt allowed Varvara to get a hand on the ball, squashing Norwich's opportunity to tie the score.
With the win, Springfield won their sixth ECAC Championship game in as many tries and their second in a row.
The Pride struck first in the game, scoring two minutes into the game on the opening drive. Louis Fenaroli notched the three-yard rushing touchdown.
Norwich wasted no time answering back, as Foley found Dan Jamieson (Morris Plains, N.J.) for a seven-yard touchdown pass with 9:43 to play in the first. Foley threw a second touchdown pass to Matt Mulcahy (Essex, Vt.) just over two-and-a-half minutes later, after the teams exchanged turnovers, all within five yards of the endzone.
Norwich initially took possession at the Springfield 18-yard line after Dominque Davis (Kissimmee, Fla.) blocked a punt by Springfield. Three plays into the Norwich drive, Springfield's Danny Macalena forced a fumble on the one-yard line and Springfield regained possession. On the second play of the ensuing drive, Andy Mangin (Concord, Mass.) came up with the ball on Springfield's fumble and Norwich took over again on the five-yard line. It took the Cadets three plays to set up Foley and Mulcahy for the second Norwich touchdown of the day.
Following Georgio's record-breaking touchdown in the second quarter, Springfield began their 21-point comeback, starting with a seven-yard touchdown run by Jonathan Marrero with 28 seconds left in the second quarter.
From there, Springfield's Joel Altavesta took control, scoring back-to-back one-yard touchdowns at 5:32 in the third and 11:04 in the fourth to give the Pride the 28-21 lead.
Springfield's Patrick O'Connor made a huge play on defense for the Pride to start the fourth quarter, intercepting a throw by Foley and returning it 25 yards to the Norwich 40 yard line. The ensuing drive resulted in Altavesta's second touchdown of the day.
Altavesta was named the game's most outstanding player. In addition to his two scores, he also totaled 60 yards on 19 carries.
The Norwich defense was paced by Nick Pulaski (Stratford, Conn.) with a team-best seven tackles. Bruce Mackey (Fort Valley, Ga.) added six, while Dane Pallotto (Westbrook, Conn.), Matt LeFevre (Milford, N.J.), and Mangin chipped in with five tackles each. Sam Weiss led the Springfield defense with 10 tackles.
Norwich wraps up the 2013 campaign with a 7-4 overall record. Today's appearance in the ECAC North Atlantic Bowl marked the fifth straight post season appearance for the Cadets.