Offense tops Defense, 19-18

Sophomore RB Michael Perry
Sophomore RB Michael Perry

Mike Croce's last-second touchdown pass to Ingebretsen seals win

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SMITHFIELD, R.I. – Trailing for much of the game, the Bryant offense came alive with a game-winning drive on its last possession to post a 19-18 victory over the defense in the annual Black & Gold Spring Game Saturday at Bulldog Stadium.

Braving a cold and blustery wind throughout the day, the more than 2,000 fans on hand saw a defensive battle for four quarters.  Bryant's offensive unit trailed, 11-9, heading into the fourth quarter as the defense did a solid job of keeping the Bulldogs vaunted rushing attack in check for much of the game.

Jordan Brown (Glastonbury, Conn.), last year's leading rusher in the NEC, had just 34 yards on the ground in the first half while Michael Perry (Dunmore, Pa.), a special teams standout in his first season with the Bulldogs last fall,  led the way with 61 first-half rushing yards.  The projected backup to Brown at tailback this season, Perry would finish with a game-high 87 yards rushing.

The offense had trouble finding the end zone as a series of strong stop on downs by the defense, led by the play of linebacker Eloma Johnson (Franklin, Mass.), gave the defense a 12-9 lead early in the fourth. 

Trying to get things going, the quarterback Mike Westerhaus (Farmingville, Md.) hooked up with wide receiver Brian Gonzalez (Johnston, R.I.) for a 52-yard pass play midway through the final quarter, moving the ball down to the 20-yard line. Defensive back Michael Johnson (New Market, Md.) had a step on Gonzalez on the play, but his deflection wound up in the hands of the senior receiver for the game's biggest play from scrimmage.

Johnson would make up for the play later in the drive. With the offense facing a fourth-and-9 from just outside the 15-yard line, Johnson stepped up and intercepted a Westerhaus pass intended for Gonzalez, giving the defense an 18-10 lead.

From there, the offense, led by quarterback Mike Croce (Waterbury, Conn.) and the hard running of Brown and Perry, would move the ball downfield, setting up the eventual game-winning score. 

A 4-yard run by Perry for a first down at the 11-yard line brought the offense to within five, 18-13, with under a minute to play.  That's when Croce connected with the speedy Robert Ingebretsen (Berkeley Heights, N.J.) on a play-action pass in the back of the end zone between three defenders for the game's only touchdown and a dramatic 19-18 win over the defense.

Ingebretsen had a big day as the sophomore caught five passes for 53 yards while Gonzalez was just as productive, hauling in three passes for 76 yards.  Croce finished the day 12-of-26 passing for 154 yards.  Perry ran the ball 16 times for 87 yards while Brown finished with 38 yards on the ground.

Eloma Johnson had five tackles to pace the defense, which got an interception in the end zone from sophomore corner Jeremy Woodson (Houston, Texas) in the first half.

Prior to the game, eighth-year coach Marty Fine introduced the 2011 team captains as voted by the players:  senior quarterback Mike Croce (Waterbury, Conn.), junior tailback Jordan Brown (Glastonbury, Conn.), senior tight end Matt Tracey (Littleton, Colo.), senior offensive lineman Tony Edwards (Damascus, N.J.) and senior defensive lineman Joshua Janes (Newport, R.I.).

Brown 9-38; Perry 16-87; Whitworth 18-7

Croce – 12-26, 154 yards, TD, INT; Doucette – 3-7, 3 yards; O'Connor – 2-4, 27 yards; Westerhaus – 4-7, 81 yards, INT; Brown – 1-1, 18 yards
Ingebretsen 5-53-1; Gonzalez 3-76; Sweeney 2-20; Lawrence 1-4; Pedroli 1-5; Tracey 2-36; Harris 2-45; Roncaioli 1-2; Wilson 1-14
Defense leaders:
Eloma Johnson - 3-2-5
Schermerhorn – 4-0-4
Sullivan – 3-2-5
Woodson – 4-0-4, INT
Janes – 2-0-2, Sack
Sammons – 1-0-1, PBU