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MIT holds off WNEC in Golden Bears in 39-34 victory

By Shawn Mastrian

Both MIT and Western New England College were ranked among the top 20 teams in the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference Division III before Saturday's game, so a hard-fought, down-to-the-wire football game was expected. The Beavers and the Golden Bears did not disappoint, as the contest was not decided until the final minutes, when an interception by Brian Teeple '91 knifed WNEC's last-gasp drive and sealed a 39-34 victory for MIT.

The game started out with both the Bears and the Beavers failing to produce on their initial drives. WNEC drew first blood on their next drive, however. Running back Tom Presnal led the way as he broke out on 10, 30, and 20 yard runs on the drive. The last run got him into the end zone, and WNEC had a 7-0 lead.

MIT then started to move the ball on their next drive. A catch by Tony Lapes '90 got the Beavers their first first-down of the day, and a penalty got them another (and into Bear territory). Mental mistakes stalled the drive, however, as one penalty pushed them into a third-and-13 situation and another negated a 15 yard gain. A 15 yard gain on a fake punt, a questionable call at best on fourth-and-21, was not enough to cover the damage, and WNEC took over.

The Bears did not have control for long, however. After a no-gain run, a WNEC back proceeded to cough up the ball, which Rodrigo Rubiano '92 recovered to give possession back to the Beavers. Tim Day '89 was able to capitalize on this blunder and, in turn, extend his school record for career touchdown passes to 15, as he hit a wide-open Lapes for a 15-yard scoring strike. The extra-point was blocked, however, and MIT was down 7-6.

The defense held tight on the next Bear possession, allowing WNEC only six plays before the Bears had to punt. But Teeple muffed this punt, with WNEC recovering on the MIT 18 yard line. Presnal then pounded the ball across the goal line six plays later, and the Bears had a 13-6 lead (MIT returned the favor by blocking this extra point).

It was now the Beavers' turn to score. Day ran for 13 and six yards, and then threw for 30 more to Lapes. Lapes fumbled the ball after being hit, but recovered his mistake after a long scuffle for the ball. Shane LaHousse '90 and Day then moved MIT down to the one on two runs by LaHousse and one by Day. The Beavers then rammed it in as Day dove through a gaping hole carved out by his line. The Bears once again were able to block the extra-point, though, and WNEC was still up, 13-12.

Art Wang '91 then broke up the monotony of the game as he intercepted WNEC quarterback Doug Diano's pass on the first play of the next Bear drive. LaHousse then ran the ball down to the one inch line on two plays, and Day once again drove it home. This time, a two-point conversion failed to produce, but MIT was ahead to stay, 18-13.

The first half ended with this score. A last-gasp Bear drive proved for naught as the defense stiffened and didn't allow WNEC a chance to score.

The Beaver offense wasted no time in making it's presence felt in the second half, taking the kickoff and marching the ball all the way down the field to score. Lapes and LaHousse made the key plays as Lapes gained a large chunk of yardage on a pretty diving catch and LaHousse busted out on a long run moving the ball to the 10 yard line. LaHousse then carried it in as he scored unmolested on a five yard sweep. The PAT split the uprights, and MIT was in command.

But not for long. The defense came out shining in the second half, as they stopped the Bears on a three play, five yard drive. When the Beavers took over after a punt, however, they fumbled the ball away. Diano then led his team home as he converted two key fourth downs, helping WNEC score. The extra-point made it 25-20, MIT.

Not surprisingly, MIT came right back to score on its next drive. Garret Moose '91 led the attack as he caught a 22 yard pass, and carried at least seven Bear defenders for another nine. After several more plays, LaHousse scored his second touchdown of the day as he rolled out on a sweep left and burned past everyone to score. The PAT again gave MIT a 12 point lead.

WNEC took over and marched the ball down the field, fueled by a 50-yard pass play. But, with their backs to a wall, the Beaver defense held tough. Presnal tried to convert on a fourth-and-three, but tackle Mike Ahrens '90 stopped him cold, giving MIT back the ball. WNEC got the ball right back, however, as Day and LaHousse could not connect on a pitch, a questionable play to call at best on one's own five yard line. One play later and the MIT lead was only five again.

The Beavers responded with a 10-play drive for their final touchdown. The key play was a Lapes reception off a second-and-25, which went for 28 yards. LaHousse ran it in from 10 yards out as he danced through the Bear defense to score his third score of the day.

On the ensuing kickoff, Moose was ejected from the game as he retaliated for a cheap shot given by one of the WNEC players (who, of course, was unpenalized). These 15 yards helped propel the Bears down the field to a first-and-goal situation on the MIT two. Rick Bullesbach '90 then apparently intercepted a Diano pass and ran it back 50 yards, but the entire Beaver defensive line lined up offsides, nullifying the interception. On the next play, WNEC pulled to within 39-34.

An on-side kick gave WNEC back the ball, if only momentarily. Diano apparently forgot that his MIT application was met by laughter and threw a strike to Doug Smith '93, giving the Beavers the ball once again. Conservative play-calling designed to run time off the clock resulted in a punt, giving the Bears one last shot at pulling out the game. But when Teeple leaped high in the air to nab Diano's last pass of the day, the game was locked.

The victory pushes MIT's record to 2-0. The fast start and the high powered offensive attack (they scored 45 last week) are good signs and possibly foretell greener pastures ahead. The win over WNEC was important in that the Bears are a tough team, and it showed that the Beavers have character in pulling out a close game.

MIT will play cross-town rival University of Massachusetts-Boston at home on Saturday.