WESTFIELD, Mass. – Westfield State rushed to a big lead behind 173 yards and three touchdowns from senior running back Travon Holder (Cheney/Hartford, Conn.), then held on down the stretch for a 41-27 win over Fitchburg State University in a MASCAC game at Elliot Field in Fitchburg on Friday night.
Holder scored all three of his touchdowns in the first half, as the Owls ran out to a 27-6 lead at the break.
Holder added a 73-yard return on a razzle-dazzle reverse handoff on the opening kickoff of the second half, which set up a 2-yard Jake Cassidy (Lawrence Academy/Swampscott, Mass.) touchdown plunge to give Westfield a 34-6 lead.
Holder passed the 3,000 yard rushing barrier for his career moved into third place on the Owls all-time rushing list with 3,030 career yards. His three touchdowns give him 35 for his career, good for second in school history (behind Mike Mercadante '15's 38 touchdowns).
Westfield State improves to 4-3 overall and 3-2 in the MASCAC.
The Owls' game plan took an unexpected turn, as Westfield State head coach Pete Kowalski had to leave the game due to an injury with 8:39 left in the third quarter after he had his legs cut out from under him as play spilled off the field. The Owls were up 34-13 with the ball at the time of the incident.
Fitchburg State responded with a quick scoring drive on their next series to cut the Owls lead to 34-20 midway through the third quarter.
The Owls got a big play from senior defensive back James English (Danvers HS/Lynn, Mass.) as he intercepted a pass late in the third quarter to stop a subsequent Falcons' drive, and then Cassidy scampered into the end zone from 11 yards out with 7:05 left in the game to cap a 13-play, 65-yard Owls' drive that largely salted the game away, taking 8:25 off the clock before giving Westfield a 41-20 lead.
English enjoyed a big night with the interception and a blocked point after touchdown. Brian Short (Marlborough, Mass.) added an interception in the fourth quarter that helped preserve the Owls lead.
Senior linebacker Andrew Carpenter (Auburn, Mass.) led the Owls with 11 tackles.
The Owls piled up 327 yards of total offense, including 277 on the ground. RJ Darby (Norwich, Conn.) added 64 yards rushing and Cassidy finished with 40 and a pair of TDs. Cassidy also tossed a 25-yard scoring strike to Evan Garvey (Waconah/Dalton, Mass.).
Fitchburg was led by 83 yards rushing and two touchdowns from Sterling Garvin. Quarterback Brandon Brown completed 18-25 passes for 219 yards and one touchdown.
The Falcons (1-6, 1-4 MASCAC) were undone by four turnovers, two on fumbles and two interceptions. Westfield put the ball on the carpet three times but recovered their mistake on all three occasions.
Westfield will host Framingham State next Saturday at 2:00 p.m. in the Owls Homecoming and Family Weekend game.