By Michael Otero
After losing all-conference senior quarterback, Jeff Kidd, two weeks ago to a knee injury, and backup quarterback, Matt Brennan, to a similar injury last week, football went into its matchup against Pace University on Saturday, Oct. 29, with third-string quarterback Mike Campbell as the signal caller.
The sophomore was 24-for-30 for 136 yards and touchdown and also ran 13 times for 62 yards to guide the Pioneers to a 35-17 win, their ninth in a row to open up the season and the NE- 10 Conference clincher.
It is the team’s first regular-season conference title since 2011. As a result, the Pioneers will host the NE-10 Championship game on Saturday, Nov. 12.
Similar to the win last week against AIC, the Pioneers leaned heavily on the running game, accumulating a total of 218 yards. Trailing 3-0 late in the first quarter, the Green Machine’s first touchdown drive was capped off by senior running back David White, who scored from 13 yards out. On that drive, White also ran the rock two other times for 18 yards.
Almost a quarter later, just before the half, the Pioneers drove down the field with help from White and sophomore tailback Malik Pierre, who combined for 30 rushing yards. Campbell took it from there; he found red-shirt junior receiver, James Higgins, from six yards out to go ahead 14-3 at the break.
The team’s 11-point advantage only widened in the second half thanks to the running back duo of White and Pierre, who both scored a touchdown. Thanks to key contributions from the special teams group and an 11-play, 81-yard drive, the Pioneers led 28-3.
Although outscored by seven in the final stanza, the outcome was decided by the first three quarters; the Pioneers won 35-17. Red-shirt senior receiver, Shane Hubbard, hauled in seven balls for 46 yards while Higgins had 23 yards and a score. In the rushing department, White ran for 117 yards and two scores while Pierre also found the end zone twice and totaled 41 yards.
Defensively, senior defensive back, Kareem Folkes, and junior linebacker, Kamani Odrick, each had seven tackles while red-shirt junior defensive lineman, Anthony DeNunzio, had six tackles and a pass break up. The duo of junior defensive lineman Kevin Petit-Frere, and freshman defensive back Joshua Flowers, also pitched in with a sack and interception respectively.
The Pioneers will close out their 2016 regular season Saturday, Nov. 5, against Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass.
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. It is still uncertain who will be under center for the Pioneers in that matchup, but Head Coach Bryan Collins praised the job Campbell did against Pace. “I thought he was poised. He managed the game plan we put in,” Collins said. “He took care of the ball and he made some big plays when he had to.”
Regardless of the outcome against Merrimack, the Pioneers will host a very meaningful game on Saturday, Nov. 12.