DARTMOUTH, Mass. -- Junior Jacob Francis (Middletown, R.I.) rushed for 63 yards and three touchdowns, as UMass Dartmouth limited Fitchburg State to 195 yards of total offense en route to a 37-13 victory in the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference football opener for both teams Saturday afternoon at Cressy Field.
The host Corsairs, who are 3-0 for the first time since the 2003 squad’s 9-2 campaign, took advantage of a pair of special teams miscues by the visiting Falcons (1-2, 0-1 MASCAC) and grabbed a 13-0 lead in the opening 10-plus minutes of play on a pair of Francis three-yard touchdown runs. UMass Dartmouth extended that margin to 20-0 in the closing seconds of the first quarter when junior quarterback Stephen Gacioch (Tiverton, R.I.) connected with fellow junior Leroy Brown (Milton, Mass.) from four yards out, but Fitchburg State settled in during the second stanza and closed its gap to 20-6 at the break on a pair of field goals off the foot of junior Melchior Lynch (Roxbury, Mass.) from 26 and 30 yards.
That margin held up until midway through the third quarter when Gacioch hooked up with junior Brendan Cuthill (Fall River, Mass.) on a three-yard scoring strike, and Francis capped a nine-play, 55-yard drive with his third visit to the end zone from two yards out with 75 seconds remaining in the frame. Junior James Tooker (Harwich, Mass.) closed out the Corsair scoring by booting a 28-yard field goal midway through the final quarter of action, but the Falcons answered on the ensuing possession when senior quarterback Connor Fitzsimons (Flushing, N.Y.) found fellow senior Jesse Brown (Yonkers, N.Y.) on a 49-yard touchdown pass that accounted for the final score.
Francis and junior Gayee Myers (Providence, R.I.) combined for 115 of UMass Dartmouth’s 232 rushing yards on the day, as Gacioch completed 14-of-28 pass attempts for 189 yards to go with his two touchdowns. Brown, Cuthill and junior DJ Machado (Swansea, Mass.) combined for 11 receptions for the Corsairs, who amassed 421 yards of total offense.
Junior Fernando Santiago (Merrimack, N.H.) and sophomore Steven Lawton (Ayer, Mass.) combined for 79 rushing yards in the setback for Fitchburg State, while Fitzsimons completed just 10-of-35 pass attempts for 146 yards and a score. Brown and senior Joshua Nelson (Providence, R.I.) combined for five catches and 112 receiving yards for the Falcons, who were held to just 49 total rushing yards on 32 carries.
Seniors Tony Slaughter (Springfield, Mass.) and Connor Russ (Middletown, R.I.) each recorded eight tackles (seven solo) to lead the way defensively for UMass Dartmouth, as Slaughter registered four tackles for loss and blocked a punt on special teams. Junior Chris Gomes (Taunton, Mass.) picked off a Fitzsimons pass as well for the Corsairs, who held the ball for nearly 32 minutes in the contest.
Junior Richard Austin (Wareham, Mass.) notched a game-high 11 tackles, including nine solo and four for losses of 16 yards, on the defensive side for Fitchburg State, which received seven tackles each from Lynch and sophomore Samuel Kenny (South Yarmouth, Mass.) along with an interception from senior Arnold Caddell Jr. (Webster, Mass.).
UMass Dartmouth, which is averaging 46.3 points and 526 yards of total offense through three games, hosts Plymouth State in a Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference matchup next Saturday afternoon at Cressy Field that kicks off at 2:00 pm, while Fitchburg State entertains Bridgewater State in a MASCAC clash next Saturday afternoon in Fitchburg, Mass. that kicks off at Noon.
(Photo Credit: Kris Jean-Francois '23)