WALTHAM, Mass. – Junior quarterback Danny Guadagnoli (Framingham/Framingham HS) threw a pair of TD passes to standout sophomore receiver Jeff Hill (Mansfield/Mansfield HS) and also ran for two other scores while amassing 417 yards of total offense as Bentley University celebrated Homecoming with a 38-21 win over Merrimack College in Northeast-10 football Saturday afternoon.
Guadagnoli finished with 341 yards on 19-of-34 passing and also scrambled for 76 yards on ten carries. Hill caught eight passes for 196 yards, tying his career-best, with TD receptions of 40 and five yards (his eighth and ninth of the season). He just missed a third, coming up about three inches shy of the end zone on a 39-yard catch late in the third.
Offense wasn't the only area that Bentley excelled as the defense held Merrimack to about half of its season scoring average, made three interceptions and came up with two fourth-down stops in the first quarter.
After Merrimack's first possession of the game ended with an incompletion on a fourth-and-one from the Bentley 32, Guadagnoli led the Falcons on the game's first scoring drive, an 11-play, 68-yarder. After completing four of seven, including a pair to Hill (27, 14 yards), he used the draw play to take it in from the 14 with 3:36 left in the first.
A 55-yard pass play on Merrimack's ensuing possession moved the Warriors into the red zone and eventually to a first-and-goal at the Bentley four. The Falcon D came up big again, allowing only two yards on four plays with a pass breakup by senior safety Don Hopkins (Waltham/Waltham HS) denying the visitors on fourth down.
Bentley countered with a 12-play drive, moving the ball from its own two to the Merrimack eight before setting for a 25-yard field goal by senior Will Lockwood (Menlo Park, Calif./Sacred Heart Prep) and a 10-0 lead.
Merrimack got on the board with about six minutes left in the first half, cutting the lead to 10-6, but a strong finish before intermission enabled the Falcons to take an impressive 24-6 advantage into the locker room.
Guadagnoli went up the middle for a nine-yard TD run with 1:16 left and senior safety Steve Hopkins (Waltham/Waltham HS) gave the ball back to the Falcons three plays later with his third interception of 2012. Guadagnoli and Hill teamed up on a 39-yard pass that was just about three inches shy of the goal line, and junior Lorenzo Warren (Boston/Catholic HS) finished the drive with 19 seconds on the second-quarter clock.
Merrimack, coming off an 81-point effort a week ago against Saint Anselm, opened the second half with a 72-yard scoring drive finished by senior Jimon Hill (North Chicago, Ill.) with a two-point run, and after the two-point conversion, the Falcon lead was down to 10.
It didn't stay that way for long as the Falcons answered on their next possession. Guadagnoli completed two third-and-long passes on the drive, a 15-yarder to senior Sean Cross (Duxbury/ Duxbury HS) and a 40-yarder to Hill for the touchdown.
Bentley extended its lead to 38-14 early in the fourth with Guadagnoli finding Hill in the end zone on a first-and-goal from the five.
Merrimack avoided its lowest point total of the season with a touchdown pass from sophomore Luke Bakanowsky (Ashburnham) to senior tight end Steve Serwon (Amesbury) with 17 seconds left.
Hill wasn't the only Falcon to reach the century mark in receiving yards as Cross also had a strong game with six catches for 107 yards.
Bentley, which controlled the ball for nearly 37 minutes, amassed 488 yards total offense and converted nine of 16 third downs, as well as its only fourth-down attempt of the afternoon. Merrimack totaled 370 yards and 26 first downs, but was limited to just two net rushing yards on 22 attempts.
Senior QB Joe Clancy (Newburyport) finished 24 of 47 for 321 yards and three interceptions, and senior Isaiah Voegeli (Hyannis), the leading receiver in Division II, finished with nine receptions for 141 yards. One hundred of those yards came in the fourth quarter after the Bentley lead hit 24, 38-14.
Junior linebacker AC Carter (Marlborough/Marlborough HS) had a team-best 11 tackles and an interception for Bentley in his first start of the season, and the Falcon D-line was outstanding with three sacks and six QB hurries. Senior Andrew Sklar (Ivyland, Pa./Perkiomen Prep) finished with three hurries and one sack, and classmate Matt Campo (Dedham/Catholic Memorial HS) was credited with two hurries and a sack.
In addition to the Steve Hopkins' interception, senior Steve Stewart (Wilmington/Wilmington HS) also picked off a pass for the Falcons.
Bentley will play at Southern Connecticut State next Saturday and will be back on its home field Nov. 10 for a game against an opponent to be determined as part of the NE-10 Championship Weekend.