WALTHAM, Mass. – The Bentley University Falcons will be looking to extend their winning streak to four and remain in the hunt for a Northeast-10 championship when it visits Franklin Pierce University for the first time Saturday at noon.
The game from what is expected to be very frosty Sodexho Field in Rindge, N.H. can be seen on the NE10 NOW digital network at www.NE10NOW.tv or on your smart TV.
Coming off a 41-35 Homecoming win over Saint Anselm, the Falcons (4-4, 4-2 NE10) will be attempting to make it four in a row for the first time since the 2012 and 2013 seasons when they closed with three straight and opened with a victory over Mercyhurst.
The streak has lifted Bentley into a four-way deadlock for second place in the Northeast-10 with the Falcons, Stonehill, Pace and New Haven all one game back of Assumption with two to play. Remaining for the Greyhounds are a home game at New Haven and a season-ender at Saint Anselm.
Franklin Pierce, which played sprint football prior to 2019, is 1-8 overall and 0-7 NE10 in its first varsity season. The Ravens, whose two-deep is littered with freshmen, have allowed at least 50 points in five of their six losses. The only win came back on Sept. 14, 29-27 over Division III Curry.
The Falcon offense climbed to second on the NE10 list, averaging 396.5 yards a game, after topping 400 yards in four of the last five games. That includes 475 and a season-high 509 in the last two games.
Junior quarterback Stephen Sturm (Collegeville, Pa./Perkiomen Valley HS), who eclipsed 5,000 yards in career total offense during Saturday's win against Saint Anselm, threw for a season-high 346 yards and three TD in that game, but uncharacteristically was intercepted three times. For the season, he's completed 61 percent of his attempts for 1,871 yards and 13 scores.
Sturm has a number of talented skill players to distribute the ball to, including senior slot receiver Drew Mahoney (West Suffield, Conn./Suffield Academy), the NCAA Division II leader in catches per game at 9.0. He's averaging 96 yards per game and enters this week with 72 receptions for 771 yards and four TDs. Mahoney's season has included five contests with double-figure catches and four 100-yard games.
Junior Austin Ryan (Foxborough/Foxborough HS), who broke an 84-yard touchdown jaunt last week, has 35 receptions for 403 yards and three TD. Sophomore Noah Neville (Boston/Newton North HS), the team leader in TD catches with five, follows with 22 catches for 369 yards. All three have had a TD catch of at least 70 yards this season.
On the ground, Bentley has been led by senior Jordan Artope (Cortlandt Manor, N.Y./Hendrick Hudson HS), with 474 yards and eight TDs. Junior Andrew Brazicki (Franklin Park, N.J./St. Thomas Aquinas HS) follows with 349 yards, and Sturm has scrambled for 254 yards. Freshman Nathaniel Larkins (Huntington, N.Y./John Glenn HS) has shown promise, with 71 yards against Saint Anselm and a 7.2 average on 22 carries.
The Bentley o-line includes three players who are scheduled to make their 25th straight start on Saturday. They are fifth-year senior guard Matt Boyle (Duxbury/Duxbury HS), junior center Sean Mitchell (Park Ridge, N.J./Saint Joseph Reg. HS) and junior tackle Tim Leonard (Rumson, N.J./Rumson-Fair Haven HS).
The defense has come up with 17 takeaways this season, second most in the conference. Seven different players have intercepted passes, with sophomore Aaron Racki (Tampa, Fla/Cambridge Christian HS) leading the way with two, and six having recovered fumbles. The two players who have an interception, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble are junior linebacker Marc Doran (Ramsey, N.J./Saint Joseph Reg. HS and senior d-back Will Sheriffs (Naples, Fla./Gulf Coast HS).
Doran and three-time All-Conference defensive back Pete Thorbahn (Norwell/Xaverian Bros. HS) are 1-2 in tackles, with 58 and 50, respectively.
Senior kicker Grant Buchanan (Holliston/Holliston HS), who surpassed 200 career points last weekend, leads Bentley in scoring with 55. He's kicked a career-high ten field goals, including seven the last three weeks, and has been perfect on 25 extra point attempts.
Franklin Pierce starts eight freshmen on both sides of the ball in its first varsity season. One of the non-freshman, junior Lo Jackson, Jr., has been used in a number of roles and leads the team in all-purpose running with 677. He has a team-best 21 catches for 284 yards and two TD, and has also gained 134 on the ground for a 5.6 average.
Freshman Drew Campanale has seen most of the time at quarterback. He's completed 54 percent of his passes for 1,128 yards, six TD and five interceptions.
Freshman corner Tyvarius Daniels is tied for second in the conference in interceptions with three, and freshman linebacker Najiere Hutchinson is one of six NE10 players with at least 60 tackles.
Franklin Pierce averages 210 yards of offense and gives up 410.9 a game.
Following the sixth and final road trip of the season, Bentley will close out the regular season next Saturday with American International, the second meeting of the year between the two squads. Back in week two, the Falcons were upended by the Yellow Jackets out in Springfield, 28-23.