WALTHAM, Mass. – After his team erased a 20-0 halftime deficit, sophomore Austin Stefano (Wethersfield, Conn.) drilled a 40-yard field goal in the first overtime session to give visiting Pace University a 23-20 victory over Bentley University in Northeast-10 Conference action Saturday afternoon.
The disappointing finish spoiled a strong effort by Bentley junior cornerbacks Pete Thorbahn (Norwell/ Xaverian Bros. HS) and Derek Perkins (Milton/Milton HS). Thorbahn provided 11 tackles, his tenth career interception, a fumble recovery and a pass break-up while Perkins returned an interception 100 yards for his second pick-six of the season.
Perkins' interception, made about four yards deep in the end zone, matched the school record for longest return, set by Scott Reiland against Assumption in 1996.
The first half was all Bentley as the Falcons scored on the game's opening drive and forced turnovers on each of the Setters' four second-quarter possessions.
Bentley sophomore Seamus Leary (Holden/St. Peter Marian HS), making his first career start, sparked his team to an early 6-0 lead. After rushing for one first down and passing for two others, he faked a handoff before keeping it and running the ball in from the Pace 26.
Early in the second, Falcon senior strong safety Nick Athy (Holliston/Holliston HS) came up with an interception and returned it ten yards to the Pace 13. On the very next play, Leary found freshman wide receiver Noah Neville (Boston/Newton North HS) in the end zone for a touchdown and a 13-0 lead.
Later in the quarter, Pace drove from its own 36 to the Bentley five and was looking at second down. That scoring bid was thwarted by Perkins, who made it a three-touchdown lead with 3:59 left until intermission.
Bentley never got it going in the second half, managing only 48 yards on 28 plays, including overtime. On the other side, Pace got back in the game due in large part to the efforts of senior tailback Jhalen Bien-Aime (Dorchester), who finished with 224 yards on 39 carries and broke the Setters' career rushing record.
Pace, which had been shut out on its three previous visits to Waltham, ended that scoring drought with three minutes left in the third. Capping the nine-play, 61-yard drive was a 24-yard scoring pass from junior Brandon Simmons (Willingboro, N.J.) to junior tight end Phyll Thomas (New London, Conn.
Bien-Aime scored twice in the fourth quarter with both scores coming after Setter interceptions. He ran it in from the three, with the Falcon lead standing at 20-13 after the PAT hit the left upright, and evened the game on an eight-yard run with 6:55 remaining.
In the OT, Stefano gave Pace (4-2, 3-2 NE10) its first lead of the game after the visitors were limited to four yards on three plays. Bentley failed to move the ball on its possession and the 42-yard field goal attempt by junior Grant Buchanan (Holliston/Holliston HS) was blocked by Hemyer Hernandez (Brooklyn, N.Y.) to end the game.
Bentley, 1-5 overall and 1-4 NE10 after dropping its fourth straight, was outgained statistically across the board. Total offense was 416-164, total plays 81-53, first downs 24-10 and Pace had the ball for more than 36 minutes. Four of the Falcon first downs came on the opening possession.
Four Falcons reached double-figures in tackles with senior linebacker Andrew Carmichael (Wayland/Wayland HS) leading the way with 13. Thorbahn had 11, sophomore linebacker Marc Doran (Ramsey, N.J./St. Joseph Regional HS) ten and junior linebacker Eddie O'Hara (Norwalk, Conn./ Norwalk HS) the same number.
Bentley will look to get back on track next Saturday with a 1 pm home game against Stonehill College.