The Hobart football team scored 23 unanswered points to start the game and held on for a 40-33 Liberty League win over Merchant Marine. Junior wide receiver Garth Muratori caught seven passes for 129 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Statesmen.
Hobart (4-2, 2-1) produced 409 yards of offense, including 305 through the air. Junior quarterback Doug Vella completed 18-of-33 for all of the Statesmen’s passing yards. Sophomore Junior Woodard had three catches for 50 yards, while senior Mike Lazore made two catches for 47 yards and a TD. On the ground, Hobart had 104 yards, including 72 by first-year running back Steven Webb.
Defensively, junior linebacker Reggie Robinson made a team-high 10 tackles, including three for a loss, while first-year safety Devin Worthington made nine stops, including 2.5 sacks, and recovered two fumbles.
Merchant Marine (3-5, 2-2) ran twice as much as it passed, gaining 142 yards rushing and 150 passing. Sophomore running back John-Leon Gosselin pounded out 110 yards and a TD on 21 carries. Senior quarterback Derrick Ventre was 14-of-22 for 150 yards and a touchdown. First-year wide out Chaise Dunn was his top target with four catches for 43 yards and a visit to the end zone.
Kevin Stapf paced the defense with a game-high 11 tackles, including 3.5 behind the line of scrimmage.
Hobart used the game’s first drive to go 66 yards in six plays with Webb breaking a sweep to the left for 24 yards and his 10th touchdown of the season. The Statesmen defense forced the Mariners to punt and the offense again marched down the field, but the Academy put together a goal-line stand stopping Webb at the Mariner 2 on fourth and goal.
The exuberance of the stand faded fast as Worthington stormed into the backfield on second down for a sack in the end zone for a 9-0 lead. After the free kick, Hobart added to its lead. On third and six from the Mariners’ 41, Vella found himself under pressure. He scrambled right and floated one over the defense to Muratori, who ran untouched into the end zone for a 16-0 lead.
The Statesmen D again bottled up the Mariners and forced a punt. Hobart took over at its own 20 and needed just six plays to return to pay dirt. Muratori again did the honors, crossing the goal line on a 23-yard pass play. Junior Conor Callahan’s PAT gave the Statesmen a 23-0 lead with 10:46 left in the opening half.
Merchant Marine, which hadn’t scored against the Statesmen in more than 10 quarters, finally broke through on an 8-yard run by Ventre, capping an 11-play, 57-yard drive.
Hobart fumbled on the next play from scrimmage, setting up a 21-yard scoring run by Gosselin to cut the Mariners’ deficit to 23-13.
The Statesmen countered with a 10-play, 67-yard march. The drive nearly ended in a three-and-out, but a facemask penalty on the punt play gave Hobart an automatic first down. Muratori capped with a diving catch in the end zone to give Hobart a 30-13 lead with 35 seconds left in the half.
The Academy was able to maneuver into field goal range, and booted a 41-yarder as time expired, sending the home team into the break, down 30-16.
Merchant Marine started the second half with possession, but Robinson forced a Mariner fumble that Worthington recovered, leading to Lazore’s 27-yard catch-and-run touchdown that went from the left sideline to the right as he picked up blocks.
The Academy capitalized on another Hobart turnover, this time one of two Vella interceptions. Two plays later, Karl Heimbrock barreled in from 3 yards out to make it a 37-23 game with 9:59 left in the third quarter.
The Mariners repeated the pick and score maneuver to trim the Hobart lead to 37-26 with a 31-yard field.
Hobart punted on its next possession, but the Statesmen defense came up with another turnover. Facing fourth-and-31, the Academy lined up to punt, but the kicker dropped the snap and Worthington pounced on it to give Hobart the ball at the Mariners’ 40.
Twelve plays later, the Statesmen had to settle for a 23-yard field goal by Callahan to take a 40-26 lead into the final four minutes of the game.
Ventre directed the game’s final scoring drive, completing five straight passes, the last a 13-yard connection with Dunn.
Merchant Marine attempted an on-side kick, but junior Kyle Tritten caught the ball cleanly at the Mariners’ 35 to secure possession. Hobart was able to run all but the final four seconds off the clock. The Academy completed one pass and lateraled once before senior linebacker Kyle O’Laughlin made the day’s final tackle at the MMA 30.
The Statesmen will be back in action on Saturday, Oct. 30, when they host WPI in another Liberty League clash. Kickoff at Boswell Field is scheduled for noon.