DARTMOUTH, Mass. -- Junior quarterback Stephen Gacioch (Tiverton, R.I.) threw for a career-high 512 yards and five touchdowns, including a game-winning 23-yard connection with senior Abbi Bamgbose (Worcester, Mass.) in overtime, to lift UMass Dartmouth to a 48-41 non-league college football victory over Husson Saturday afternoon at Cressy Field.
The host Corsairs, who are off to their first 2-0 start in 16 years, locked in a see-saw battle with the visiting Eagles (0-1), who qualified for last year’s NCAA Division III championships. The squads combined for 261 yards and 35 points in a wild opening quarter that saw Husson emerge with a 21-14 lead, as the visitors opened the scoring on a two-yard plunge by sophomore Shawn Noel Jr. (Raynham, Mass.) before the hosts answered on a 10-yard connection between Gacioch and sophomore Leroy Brown (Milton, Mass.) to even matters.
A pair of touchdown tosses from Eagle senior quarterback David Morrison (Ashland, Mass.) to junior Aidan Hogan (Morgan, Vt.) of 54 and 22 yards sandwiched a one-yard run by Corsair junior Jacob Francis (Middletown, R.I.) to cap the opening frame, and UMass Dartmouth pulled to within one with just over four minutes remaining in the half on a 54-yard strike from Gacioch to junior DJ Machado (Swansea, Mass.). Morrison and Hogan hooked up for a third time from seven yards out with 33 seconds to play in the half that extended Husson’s advantage to 27-20 at the break.
Gacioch and Machado made magic once again on the opening drive after intermission, as the duo connected for a 66-yard touchdown that evened matters once again at 27-27. That score held up until late in the third quarter when Morrison found junior Tyler Halls (Lisbon, Maine) from 36 yards out to give the Eagles their final lead of the day, as junior Pedro DelToro (Chelsea, Mass.) got behind the defense and hauled in a 54-yard scoring strike from Gacioch on the ensuing possession to knot the score at 34 heading into the fourth stanza.
Both squads had chances to take the lead early in the final frame of regulation, as UMass Dartmouth senior Tony Slaughter’s (Springfield, Mass.) strip-sack at midfield ended a Husson scoring threat, but the visitors returned the favor on the ensuing possession when senior Nick Alvarez (Miami, Fla.) blocked a go-ahead field goal attempt. After a short punt set up the Corsairs at the Eagle 36-yard line, junior Olawale Junaid (Boston, Mass.) capped a four-play drive with a nine-yard touchdown run that was set up by a key 23-yard rush from Gacioch that gave the hosts their first lead (41-34) of the contest.
Morrison engineered a nine-play, 58 yard drive in the closing minutes of regulation that enabled Husson to forge the fifth and final tie of the day with 39 seconds remaining, as he hooked up with Hogan for the fourth time from seven yards out after connecting with Hills on a game-extending 21-yard pass on 4th and 8 at the Corsair 28 yard line. The Eagles won the toss and elected to play defense in overtime, where Gacioch found Bamgbose from 23 yards out on UMass Dartmouth’s second play. After gaining eight yards on its first two plays of the extra session, an incomplete pass set up 4th-and-2 for Husson at the UMass Dartmouth 17, but Morrison’s pass to Hills only gained a yard and ended the contest.
Gacioch, who has thrown for 850 yards and 11 touchdowns in the first two weeks of the season, accounted for all but 41 of UMass Dartmouth’s 580 yards of total offense, as he completed 26-of-42 pass attempts. Machado hauled in six catches for a career-high 158 yards and two scores, as he was one of three Corsair receivers to record 100-yard receiving performances. Brown collected eight catches for 121 yards and a score for the hosts, who received four receptions for 114 yards and a touchdown from Bamgbose.
Morrison was 22-of-40 for 339 yards and matched Gacioch with five touchdown passes on the afternoon in the setback for Husson, as Hills hauled in a game-high 13 receptions for 185 yards while Hogan made six total catches for 105 yards to go with his four scores. Noel Jr. was a yard shy of the 100 mark with 99 yards on 38 carries for the Eagles, who amassed 401 yards of total offense.
Sophomore Javien Delgado (Lynn, Mass.) registered a career-high 14 total tackles (nine solo and 3 ½ for losses) to lead the way defensively for UMass Dartmouth, which received 10 stops (seven solo) from junior Jacob Burkhead (Plymouth, Mass.) along with nine total tackles (eight solo) from senior Mo Rainford (Boston, Mass.). Alvarez made eight solo stops to go with his blocked kick in the setback for Husson, which also received eight tackles (six solo) from senior Matthew Montford (Newark, N.J.) in the first-ever meeting between the two schools on the gridiron.
UMass Dartmouth opens Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference action next Saturday afternoon by hosting Fitchburg State at Cressy Field for a 4:30 pm kickoff, while Husson hosts WPI in a non-league clash next Saturday afternoon in Bangor, Maine that kicks off at 1:00 pm.
(Photo Credit: Bridget Bagana '23)