WALTHAM, Mass. – Since 2010, the Bentley University Falcons and the Merrimack College Warriors have squared off on the gridiron eight times with each team having won four. There have been close games and lop-sided ones, with the last two falling into the latter category. Bentley won at home last fall, 41-22, after the Warriors prevailed 41-10 in 2015 in the Falcons' last visit to North Andover.
The two programs will renew acquaintances on Saturday at Merrimack's Martone-Mejail Field with both clubs looking to improve to 2-0 in Northeast-10 Conference action. A free webcast for the 1 pm encounter will be available at www.merrimackathletics.com/watch
Coach Bill Kavanaugh's Bentley team bounced back from an opening day loss at West Chester University to thrash Saint Anselm College last Friday night, 50-14. It was the Falcons' first 50-point output since the finale of the 2013 season.
Meanwhile, Merrimack has followed a similar path so far this season. The Warriors gave up 29 fourth quarter points in a 49-41 opening day loss to Division I Bryant, and came back to best American International last week in their conference opener, 41-31. This week's game will mark the home opener for coach Dan Curran's team.
The top two players in the conference in all-purpose yardage through two games will be in action Saturday. For Bentley, freshman wide receiver Austin Ryan (Foxborough/Foxborough), the reigning NE10 Rookie of the Week, is averaging 175.5 yards per game after totaling 199 against Saint Anselm. He's one of three Falcons who has scored two touchdowns and is averaging a conference-best 25.8 yards per reception with 206 on eight catches.
Merrimack sophomore Sebastian Lucas leads the conference in receiving yards and all-purpose after catching eight for a school record-tying 269 last week. He has 19 total receptions, three of which have gone for TDs, including a 97-yarder against AIC.
The other two Falcons who have scored two TDs are junior wide receiver Drew Mahoney (West Suffield, Conn./Suffield Academy) and freshman running back Andrew Brazicki (Franklin Park, N.J./ Bishop Ahr HS). Mahoney has caught eight balls for 112 yards and Brazicki has gained 67 yards with a 4.8 per carry norm.
Bentley senior quarterback Mack Lowrie (Foxborough/Roxbury Latin School) is coming off his best game as a collegian, one that saw him amass 354 yards total offense and account for five touchdowns. He completed 15 of 23 for 265 yards and four touchdowns for a 210.70 efficiency rating and also picked up 89 yards on the ground, including a 50-yarder for another score. For the season, he owns a .583 completion percentage and 385 passing yards, and is third in the NE10 in efficiency.
Senior linebacker Aaron Chretien (Commerce Township, Mich./Walled Lake Northern HS) leads Bentley in tackles so far, with 13, including 1.5 for losses, in the first two games. Sophomore Andrew Carmichael (Wayland/Wayland HS), a sophomore, follows with 11. Senior LB Bryan Brown (Oxon Hill, Md./Suitland HS) has a team-best four tackles for losses and freshman LB Marc Doran (Ramsey, N.J./Saint Joseph Reg. HS) has two of the team's five sacks.
Bentley is coming off a strong defensive effort against Saint Anselm, one in which it held the Hawks to 201 net yards and forced a couple turnovers (both fumbles). While the Falcons are number two in the NE10 in total defense, Merrimack will come in ranked sixth overall (424.0) and ninth against the pass (307.0).
Merrimack, whose leading tacklers are free safety Brian Carroll and defensive end Tyree Holmes with 15 apiece, is second in the conference in sacks with nine.
Senior Derrick Villard has accounted for most of the Warriors' yardage on the ground, averaging 69 a game with two touchdowns, and graduate student CJ Scarpa handles the duties behind center. He's thrown for 857 yards with four TDs against both Bryant and AIC.
In last year's game, Bentley pulled away with 24 points in a span of just over six minutes surrounding halftime. That included a pair of pick-sixes, a 35-yarder by Brown and a 40-yarder by current senior co-captain Junior Chery (Waltham/Waltham HS).
The encounter with Merrimack will be followed by the Falcons' Homecoming Day game on Sept. 23 against nationally-ranked LIU Post.
BENTLEY BRIEFS: Sophomore kicker Grant Buchanan (Holliston/Holliston HS) is Bentley's leading scorer with 15 points. He's six-for-six on point-after attempts and three-for-three on field goals, the longest having been 25 yards … The Falcons have scored on seven of eight red-zone visits so far this season with the opponents six-for-seven … Since the Bentley program gained varsity status in 1988, the Falcons are 14-10 all-time against Merrimack. However, they've lost four of their last five in North Andover, the win coming during Northeast-10 Championship Weekend in 2014.