#5 New Haven Edges Bentley, 17-13, in Battle of Defensive-Minded Unbeatens

Blaine Hopwood
Blaine Hopwood

WALTHAM, Mass. – Bentley University junior quarterback Danny Guadagnoli (Framingham/ Framingham HS) threw a pair of second-half touchdown passes, but it wasn't enough as the University of New Haven, ranked fifth nationally in Division II, held off the Falcons, 17-13 , in Northeast-10 Conference football Saturday afternoon before a Bentley Family Day crowd of more than 3,500.

It was the 13th straight conference win for the Chargers, who improved to 6-0 overall and 5-0 in the NE-10. Bentley, which just missed out on last week's top 25, saw its seven-game winning streak come to an end with the Falcons dipping to 5-1 overall and 4-1 conference.

Both teams entered the contest ranked in the top ten in Division II in most defensive categories, and it was the defenses that controlled the game most of the time. First downs matched the final score, and New Haven finished with a 288-199 advantage in total offense.

Following a scoreless opening quarter, the first eight minutes of the second proved costly for Bentley as the Chargers twice capitalized on excellent field goal position to open a 14-0 lead. After recovering a fumble on the Falcon 46, it took nine plays for New Haven to reach the end zone, a 27-yard pass from senior Ronnie Nelson (Stuart, Fla.) to classmate Jason Thompson (Indiantown, Fla.) finishing the drive with 11:34 left in the opening half.

After a three-and-out on the ensuing series, a short punt gave the ball back to the visitors at the Bentley 42. A third-down conversion moved the ball inside the 30, a Nelson completion made it a first down at the 14, and after another Nelson pass, senior Victor Jones (Paterson, N.J.) took it in from the five for a two-touchdown lead.

The Bentley offense, limited to 64 yards total offense and guilty of two turnovers (including one inside the New Haven five) during the first 39 minutes, came alive on its final possession of the third quarter. Guadagnoli's fourth completed pass during the seven-play drive was a two-yard scoring strike to Jeff Hill (Mansfield/Mansfield HS), his seventh TD catch of the season, and the Falcons were within seven, 14-7.

After New Haven missed a 26-yard field goal wide left that would have extended the lead to 10, Guadagnoli directed the Falcons on a 12-play, 80-yard drive that culminated with a 10-yard scoring pass to senior Bill Kiley (Quincy/Boston College HS). Operating from the right side of the field, Guadagnoli went cross field to Kiley in the left side of the end zone, with the Falcon receiver shaking his defender to make the catch.

New Haven held on to the slim lead when the point-after kick just missed, wide left.

The Chargers answered back with their longest drive of the afternoon, in terms of both plays (10) and time (5:20). After it stalled inside the 15, senior Chris Scifo (Coral Springs, Fla.) put a 30-yard field goal through the uprights, extending the lead to four with 1:32 left.

A touchback gave Bentley the ball back on its own 25, with one timeout left, but the Charger defense put the locks on, ending the Falcon hopes of a comeback with its fourth sack of the afternoon.

Before getting on the scoreboard, Bentley came up with three takeaways, but couldn't capitalize on any. Senior corner Stephen Stewart (Wilmington/Wilmington HS) had an interception on UNH's first possession of the game, senior safety Don Hopkins (Waltham/Waltham HS) had his third pick of the season in the second quarter, and senior Colby Dalton (North Eastham/Nauset Reg. HS) recovered a muffed punt at the New Haven 22 three minutes into the third.

Guadagnoli finished 24 of 38 for 193 yards and no interceptions, with Hill and senior Sean Cross (Duxbury/Duxbury HS) both catching seven balls. The Falcons never got anything going on the ground, finishing with just six net rushing yards.

Nelson was 12 of 22 for 114 yards, and he also ran for 34 of his team's 174 rushing yards. Jones led the Chargers in rushing with 66 yards on 12 carries, and junior Mike DeCaro (Weston, Fla.) followed with 11 for 58.

The strong Bentley defensive effort saw junior linebacker Blaine Hopwood (New Bedford/New Bedford HS) tackle 13 for the second straight week, and senior defensive end Matt Campo (Dedham/ Catholic Memorial HS) involved in nine stops.

Bentley will travel to Springfield next Saturday to face American International, which remained in a first-place tie in the NE-10 with a 34-7 victory over New Haven.