WESTFIELD – Westfield State University and Western New England University meet on Friday night at Alumni Field as the Owls look to regain the President’s Cup after surrendering it last season on the road.
Both teams enter the game with 1-0 records after winning their opening games of the season last week. Western New England defeated Springfield College, 34-14, in its home opener at Golden Bear Stadium.
Last Week: Westfield defeated Nichols, 44-21, in its season-opener on Saturday, September 5. After giving up the first touchdown of the game, the Owls responded with 34 unanswered points to put the game out of reach. Erik Washburn completed 14 of 20 passes for 244 yards and 3 touchdowns, including an 81-yard strike to sophomore Evan Cain in the second quarter. Cain finished with 7 receptions for 158 yards and 2 touchdowns.
The Series: Westfield State leads the all-time series, 14-12, but has lost four of the last five meetings. The Owls last win came in 2013, when they defeated Western New England, 33-7, at Alumni Field.
Last Year: Western New England quarterback Tyler Ward threw a 38-yard touchdown with 4:18 remaining to lead the Golden Bears to a 17-14 victory at Golden Bear Stadium. Ward completed 16 of 26 passes for 174 yards, but threw two interceptions. Michael Mercadante scored Westfield State’s touchdowns on runs of 13 and six yards, the final score coming seconds into the fourth quarter and giving the Owls their first lead of the game. Mercandante rushed 32 times for 123 yards, while quarterback Steve Guercio threw for 93 yards. Marcus Pettigrew made nine tackles, including three tackles for loss, and forced a fumble for Westfield in the loss.
Westfield on Offense: The Owls relied heavily on big plays in the passing attack from senior quarterback Erik Washburn in the opening week win. Washburn, who had thrown for more than 1,500 yards and 13 touchdowns heading into the season, completed touchdown passes of 16, 39, and 81 yards against Nichols. Senior center Jon Bradway and senior guard Anthony Metzler anchor a young Owls offensive line, while senior captain and 2014 All-Conference fullback Ryan Sweeney will help clear the way for junior running back Bryan Waruhiu (23 carries, 99 yards) and senior Colby Bostek (15 carries, 75 yards.)
Westfield on Defense: Westfield State is young on the defensive line, but returns a secondary loaded with senior talent. Senior safety Joey Mespelli led the Owls with six tackles in the season opener, while sophomore safety William Tejeda returned an interception 17 yards for a touchdown. All-ECAC honoree and senior captain Marcus Pettigrew anchors the linebacking corps.
Westfield on Special Teams: Junior placekicker Michael Orellana has made 11 career field goals, including a 25-yarder in the opener. Sophomore punter John Ollari averaged 37.7 yards per punt last season, ranking second among all MASCAC punters.
Western New England on Offense: The Golden Bears offense is led by senior signal caller Tyler Ward, who earned the team’s Most Valuable Player Award in 2014-2015. Last season, Ward completed 63 percent of his passes for 1,651 yards and 16 touchdowns, while also running for 377 yards and six scores. Sophomore wide receiver Garrett Jones earned NEFC Offensive Rookie of the Week in Week 1 with 3 receptions for 48 yards. Junior running back Nick Connell rushed for 50 yards and a touchdown against Springfield College.
Western New England on Defense: Senior linebacker Dean Soucie anchors the Western New England defense, racking up a team-high 103 tackles last season and earning NEFC First Team All-Conference honors. The Golden Bears also return two First Team All-NEFC honorees in the secondary, juniors Obi Etuka and Isaiah Berrios.
Western New England on Special Teams: Senior punter E.J. Franskevicz earned Special Teams Player of the Week honors in the NEFC by pinning Springfield College in the red zone with both of his punts. Franskevicz averaged 51.5 yards per punt, including a 62-yarder.
Online: Live stats and webstream video will be available at www.WestfieldStateOwls.com
Radio: The game will be broadcast in greater Westfield on WSKB, 89.5 FM. Westfield State students Mike Drew and Nic Odell have the call on both radio and the webstream.