The Comeback Kids

Castleton #9 Kevin McDonough celebrates a sack

The third quarter is just underway. The ball is on the Castleton 27 yard line. Senior Quarterback Evan Smith is ready to march his team down the field.  

Seven plays, 73 yards and a catch by senior Wyatt Jackson in the endzone is how the Spartans kicked off the second half and began their 25-21 comeback home opener victory against Plymouth State on Sept 2.  

The Spartans found themselves going into the second half down by 14, but battled back to move onto 1-0 on the season. Smith led the team to victory while completing 31 of 43 pass attempts while amounting for 231 yards passing and two touchdowns.  

On rushing side, Junior Christian Keeling amassed 105 yards and a touchdown on 12 attempts while fifth-year Devin Wollner had 33 yards on 12 attempts and a touchdown as well. 

Junior Jackson Brand led the receiving core with 60 yards and a touchdown on 10 receptions.  

“We made some adjustments specifically to the run game after the first half, some very small tweaks that paid big dividends. One big run and another touchdown run that directly involved the tweaks and we put an emphasis on what we call the middle eight possessions, the last four of the first half and the first four of the second half,” said Head Coach Tony Volpone.  

Heading into the end of the first half, although down 14-0, the Spartans had just made two defensive stops going into the half including a forced fumble by graduate student Jordan Wright in which he also recovered.  

Then, to kick off the second half, Jackson hauled in a 10-yard touchdown reception to kick off the second part of the middle eight possessions on the right foot.  

“The feeling was great to get that touchdown, especially coming out of halftime we knew we needed to shift the momentum, so coach needed everybody to elevate their game and make some good things happen coming out the half,” Jackson said.  

Castleton then forced a three and out with Plymouth gaining zero yards on the drive.  

“Going into the second half down two scores is never a situation you want to be in, but we knew what needed to happen to come out on top. I think we played as a cohesive unit in the second half, the offense scoring on the first drive gave the defense some momentum and motivated us to get the ball back. We’re a gritty group of guys that really showed in the second half,” said junior linebacker Kevin McDonough.  

Going into the fourth quarter, the Spartans still found themselves down 21-12 but scored on the first drive of the quarter with an 11-play 57-yard drive that ended with Brand catching a 2-yard touchdown to cut the Plymouth lead to 21-19 and fifth year kicker Noah Crossman got his redemption after a previously missed PAT earlier in the second half.  

Members of the football team get the crowd pumped up during their late comeback.

It would be all Castleton in the fourth quarter as Wollner would rush into the endzone with 1:38 left in the game to bring Castleton their first lead of the game up 25-21 after a failed two-point conversion. The Castleton defense would eventually force a turnover on downs with 26 seconds left and Smith would take a knee to run out the clock for the Castleton victory. 

“The locker room was electric after the win. Winning is one thing, but winning by making a comeback and in a game that took the whole 60 minutes to determine a winner is another thing. A lot of dancing and a lot of smiles all around the locker room after that game. This win will be momentum for us moving forward and proves that we are never out of a game. This game gave us confidence that if things are looking rough and we start digging ourselves a hole, we can quickly get out of it. And it’s always good to start 1-0, there is no better feeling,” Smith said.  

On top of the comeback victory, junior defensive back Tyler Buxton received ECFC Rookie of the Week honor after recording three solo tackles, two assisted tackles as well as a forced fumble and fumble recovery.  

The Spartans took on Fitchburg State Saturday, September 9, and throttled the Falcons winning 32-3. After an explosion in the offensive run game and the defense shutting the door, the game went from 10-3 at half to 32-3 by the end of the third quarter. The Spartan defense had a field day against the Falcons only allowing only 88 yards of total offense.  

Devin Wollner gains some yards on the ground.

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