Franklin, Mass. – In a contest that featured more than 1,000 yards of total offense, it took a defensive stand from Dean College (4-4, 4-0 ECFC) to thwart the heroics of upstart Alfred State (3-6, 1-3 ECFC) and the host Bulldogs hung on for a wild, 50-46, win over the Pioneers in Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) action on Saturday afternoon.
The win for the Cardinal and White is their fourth straight and secures at the least a share of the 2019 ECFC Championship. A win next week over Castleton University on Senior Day would give them the outright title in just their third season in the league.
With the score locked at 50-46 with less than a minute to play, Dean's Gene Baisden, Jr. (Tampa, Fla.) intercepted Dashown Wilson's pass up the right sideline with five seconds left to play at the Bulldog five-yard line, marking just one of a few times all afternoon that either team's defense was able to put the clamps on either offense.
The game started out with a bang as Wilson moved the Pioneers down the field with ease, capping a four-play, 62-yard drive with a six-yard scamper for an early 7-0 lead.
Dean answered back when Terrell Watts (New Haven, Conn.) threw the first of his school-record seven touchdown passes – the first of five to Errol Breaux (Marietta, Ga.) on the ensuing drive.
Wilson was at it again, this time twisting and spinning into the endzone for Alfred State from 46 yards out.
Watts and Breaux connected on a five-yard score and at the end of the first quarter, the Pioneers were in front, 14-12.
Wilson carried the ball six straight times for Alfred State, working deep into Bulldog territory when he threw a dart to David Carroll for a 25 yard score.
Breaux and Watts put Dean back on the board again – this time from 59 yards out and when Gareth Chilcott (Man of Isle, England) tacked on the extra point, the Bulldogs were within two at 21-19.
The Pioneers would not go away as Wilson hit Carroll from 64 yards out three plays later, but Dean stayed close with an 81-yard drive in 50 seconds, highlighted by a 52-yard jaunt up the sideline by Michael Bethune, Jr. (West Haven, Conn.) and the final 23 coming on a Watts to Quintus Reid (New Haven, Conn.) scoring strike.
Trailing 27-25 at the half, Dean took the lead to start the third quarter when their opening drive ended with a 20-yard Breaux grab, making the score, 31-27.
After an Alfred State turnover on downs, the Bulldogs couldn't get a first down either and set up to punt from the Pioneer 47 yard line. Reid took the snap and fired a pass to Shannon Moxey (Austell, Ga.), who broke free from a defender and outraced the last Pioneer to the pylon for an incredible special teams' touchdown, extending the hosts' advantage to 37-27.
The Pioneers kept battling and when Wilson powered in from a yard out after a 56-yard drive, Alfred State was within four.
Watts' unbelievable day continued as he hit Breaux from 11 yards out to push the Dean lead to 44-33 but Wilson had his hand in another score – this time hitting Shy'rel Broadway from ten yards as the fourth quarter began.
Reid was in the scoring mix again when he hauled in a 33 yard score from Watts with a little more than ten minutes to go, seemingly putting the game away at 50-39, but Wilson still had some bullets left and he used them as he teamed up with Broadway for a 64-yard score on fourth and 19.
But a few traded possessions later, the Pioneers had the ball at their own 28 with 1:54 left to play and a chance to take the lead. Wilson converted a fourth and two and a third and ten to get the Pioneers to the Bulldog 41, Baisden made the game-saving interception, sealing the victory for Dean.
Wilson was spectacular in defeat, racking up 279 yards and four touchdowns through the air and then 217 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.
In the end, however, Watts outdueled him, finishing an extremely efficient 18-for-29 for 260 yards and seven touchdowns – the third most in NCAA Division III this season.
Bethune, meanwhile, was impressive on the ground, powering his way to 213 yards on 21 carries, while Breaux ended with eight catches for 125 yards and five scores – tied for the most in NCAA Division III this season.
Baisden, Jr. and Tyzohn Poole (New Haven, Conn.) each finished with nine tackles, while Shamis Henry (Flemington, N.J.) and Moxey each ended with eight stops.
Dean will play its final regular season contest of 2019 on Saturday, November 9 against Castleton University with a chance to win the outright ECFC Championship.