WESTFIELD, Mass. -- Westfield State sophomore running back R. J. Darby (NFA/Norwich, Conn.) ran for 205 yards and a pair of touchdowns to lead the Owls to a 25-14 win over Nichols College in the season opener for both teams at Alumni Field in Westfield, Mass.
Westfield State improves to 1-0, while Nichols opens 0-1.
Darby scored on touchdown runs of 5- and 68-yards in the second quarter to spot the Owls to a 12-0 lead. Darby sat second on the Owls depth chart going into the week, but drew a surprise start after senior Travon Holder (Cheyney/East Hartford, Conn.) was unable to play due to injury. Holder led the Owls with 1,147 yards rushing last season.
Nichols got a standout performance from running back-kick returner Jake Wood (Whitinsville, Mass.). Wood answered Darby's second score with an 84-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. The kick looked like it was about to bounce out of bounds on the left sideline, but Wood scooped it up, and evaded Owls defenders to cut the lead to 12-7 at the half.
Westfield added a 30-yard scoring strike from junior quarterback Jake Cassidy (Lawrence Academy/Lynn, Mass.) to freshman running back Justin McCray (East Hartford, Conn.), hitting McCray in stride as he crossed the goal line down the left side to improve the Owls lead to 19-7, with 10:30 left in the third.
Junior running back Shaquille Adjei (Doherty/Worcester, Mass.) added a two-yard TD run to cap an 8-play 60 yard drive and give Westfield a 25-7 lead with 14:35 left in the game.
The Bison got a glimmer of hope, as Wood returned his second kick for a touchdown of the day, this time taking the ensuing kick back 90 yards for the score with14:21 left in the game, cutting the Owls lead to 25-14, which would prove to be the final margin.
Darby finished with 205 yards on 27 carries. McCray added 68 yards on the ground, and Cassidy rushed for 56 yards and completed six of 12 passes for 72 yards and a touchdown.
Westfield limited the bison to just 135 yards of total offense. Michael Pina (Xaverian/Brockton, Mass.) completed seven of 18 passes for 74 yards; Wood finished with 33 yards rushing on nine carries.
Chris Lawrence (Newport, N.H.) led the Nichols defense with 13 tackles. Michael Spraulding (Lithonia, Ga.) added 11 stops.
Photos - courtesy of Diane Hallett