BEVERLY, Mass. – The Endicott football team closed out their 2011 season with a 31-22 victory over Mount Ida in the ECAC Division III North Atlantic Bowl on Saturday afternoon thanks in part to a 233-yard, two touchdown passing performance by senior quarterback Phil Konopka (Shelton, Conn.) who was named the game's Most Outstanding Player.
Endicott's (10-1) set a program record for wins in a single season, eclipsing their nine-win mark from one year ago. Endicott also earned their first ECAC Bowl Game win in their first ever appearance.
Mount Ida (6-5) rode the legs of star senior running back Johrone Bunch (Meriden, Conn.) for 117 yards on 29 carries with a touchdown in the loss. Bunch's effort was part of a 170-yard rushing performance by the Mustangs on the nation's seventh-ranked Gulls rush defense.
Konopka connected on 16-of-22 pass attempts in the game with touchdown completions of 39 and 54 yards. The senior finishes his stellar four-year career with over 7,085 passing yards with 69 touchdowns to just 23 interceptions.
On the ground for the Blue and Green, senior tailback Mike Lane (Medfield, Mass.) ran for 93 yards and a score with junior Jared DiBiase (Cranston, R.I.) adding 59 yards. Fellow junior running back Mike Wheeler (Hanover, Mass.) added a run of 17 yards but made his biggest impact in the return game with 105 kickoff return yards, including a 77-yard scamper for a touchdown with the Gulls down by nine points late in the second quarter.
Defensively for Endicott, senior defensive end Kevin Eagan (West Hartford, Conn.) surpassed the 100-tackle mark in 2011 with 10 tackles against the Mustangs. Five were solo tackles and two went for a loss, including an 11-yard sack in the fourth quarter. He also had an interception and a forced fumble Both junior linebacker PJ Bandini (Waltham, Mass.) and sophomore defensive back Jason Silva (Maynard, Mass.) were effective as well with nine tackles each. Bandini and senior Andrew Zani (Winchester, Mass.) both had two tackles for a loss.
For the Mustangs, Tevin Moye (Hamden, Conn.), John Page (Bourne, Mass.) and Kayln Smithson (Vilseck, Germany) all tied for a team-high nine tackles. Junior defensive lineman AJ Knibbs (Spotswood, N.J.) had two sacks in the game to end the season with 11.
Endicott and Mount Ida struggled out of the gate early in the first quarter as both teams turned the ball over on fumbles on their first possessions.
After the two teams exchanged drives that resulted in punts, the Mustangs got on the board using a Scott Drosendahl (East Aurora, N.Y.) quarterback sneak from one-yard out to put Mount Ida up 7-0. The five-play, 45-yard drive saw Mount Ida's Bunch run for 33 of those yards down to the one, setting up Drosendahl.
On Endicott's ensuing possession, the Gull drove into Mustang territory but on 3rd and seven from the 31-yard line, Konopka was hurried by Knibbs and his pass went incomplete. Gulls kicker Dylan Rushe (Palos Verdes, Calif.) attempted a 48-yarder but his kicked curved wide left as the Blue and Green trailed 7-0 at the end of the first.
Mount Ida increased their first half lead to 13-0 on a Drosendahl four-yard completion to senior wide receiver Nick Lynch (Hampton Bays, N.Y.), but the extra point was no good. Drosendahl threw his only touchdown pass on that play and finished the game 17-of-27 with one touchdown and one interception.
Endicott responded on a 39-yard touchdown reception by senior tight end Taylor Allen (Westboro, Mass.) who caught Konopka's pass and dragged his defender into the end zone for the score. Allen, Endicott's leading receiver in the game, finished with five catches for 91 yards with a touchdown.
The Gulls defense looked to get the offense back on the field on Mount Ida's next drive as Kevin Eagan recorded his third interception of the season by picking off Drosendahl on the Endicott 35-yard line and ran the ball back across midfield.
The Mustangs defense, however, responded in their own way with by tackling running back Mike Lane behind the line of scrimmage and then sacking Konopka for a nine-yard loss on 3rd and 25. A personal foul penalty on that same play pushed the Gulls out of field goal range, forcing a punt.
Mount Ida tacked on a 32-yard field goal by junior Bobby Hemmann (Newington, Conn.) to make it 16-7 Mustangs with 38 seconds left in the opening half. Hemmann's field goal was the product of a 10-play, 67-yard drive by the Mustangs that took 4:23 off the game clock.
On Mount Ida's ensuing kickoff, Endicott's Mike Wheeler ran the ball back 77-yards for the touchdown to get the Gulls back to within two points going into halftime at 16-14.
Mount Ida dominated time of possession in the first half by holding the ball for over 20 minutes compared to just nine minutes of offense for the Gulls.
Endicott received the ball at the start of the second half and on their first drive of the third quarter, Konopka found an open Mike Murphy (Chelmsford, Mass.) who shed a near tackle by Mustangs linebacker Herve Kasanda (Woburn, Mass.) and bolted for the end zone to give their first lead of the game at 21-16.
Mount Ida took the lead right back on the next drive as Bunch found a hole down the sideline for a 25-yard touchdown run with 10:04 left in the third quarter. For Bunch, it was his 14th rushing touchdown of the season. Mount Ida attempted a two-point conversation, but Drosendahl's pass attempt went incomplete to keep score at 22-21 in favor of the visitors.
With 1:06 to go in the third quarter, Endicott would finally take the lead they would not relinquish as they used good field possession following a short Mount Ida punt to drive 38 yards for a touchdown. The running back trio of DiBiase, Wheeler and Lane accounted for all 38 yards including the four-yard score to make it 28-22 Endicott.
Rushe hit a 20-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter at 8:07 to put the Gulls ahead by nine points. That would cap off the scoring as Endicott went on to win by a final score of 31-22.
Courtsey of Endicott Sports Information