WASHINGTON, D.C. – A dominant first half performance by junior running back Ryan Bonheyo (Frederick, Md.) was not enough as the Gallaudet University football team fell to Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) foe Castleton State College, 28-20, on Saturday before a raucous homecoming crowd of 4,830 at Hotchkiss Field.
The game featured two of the top three teams in the conference as Gallaudet (5-3, 3-2 ECFC) entered with a chance to control its own destiny towards winning an ECFC championship. GU started out strong and led 20-14 at halftime due to Bonheyo running for 179 yards on nine carries and three touchdowns. He racked up 208 all-purpose yards in the first 30 minutes of play but didn't have another carry in the game. In the second half Gallaudet was held scoreless and turned the ball over twice (fumble, interception), had a field goal blocked and gave Castleton (6-2, 5-0 ECFC) the ball back twice on downs and punted once.
The Bison have now dropped back-to-back home games. Castleton has won five games in a row and the six victories are a new program record.
It was a tale of two halves as the Bison offense struggled to get anything going in the second half. Momentum shifted in favor of the Spartans midway through the third quarter after a Gallaudet fumble deep in its own territory led to a Castleton State 3-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Shane Brozowski (28-for-49, 338 yards, three touchdowns, one interception) to junior wide receiver Brandon Boyle (six receptions, 69 yards, two touchdowns). The Spartans added another score with 2:23 left in the fourth quarter when Brozowski and Boyle hooked up again, this time for 18 yards.
Gallaudet had one last chance to tie the game and potentially force overtime late in the fourth quarter. The Bison picked up two quick first downs but the drive came to an end when Castleton defensive back Cody TanCreti picked off junior running back Nick Elstad (Colorado Springs, Colo.) who was forced to play quarterback after starting quarterback Todd Bonheyo (Frederick, Md.) went down with an apparent injury with less than five minutes left in the third quarter. Elstad finished the game 1-for-3 passing for two yards and one interception but carried the ball 17 times for 79 yards. Todd Bonheyo was limited to 1-for-4 passing for 21 yards and 11 rushes for 83 yards.
The series between the two teams is now knotted at 2-2 as the Spartans have won at Hotchkiss Field the last two times they have been here. Gallaudet defeated Castleton last season 59-40. This is a second straight year that Castleton has knocked out Gallaudet's starting quarterback. Freshman Quentin Williams ran 20 times for 234 yards and two touchdowns in the game's first 27 minutes before being taken out of the game on a tackle out of bounds after a 40-yard pickup.
Castleton State struck first in the contest on a long 11-play, 84-yard drive following the game's opening kickoff. The Spartans converted two third-downs during the drive that ended when senior running back Tyler Carpenter (23 carries, 83 yards, one touchdown) ran in from four yards out.
GU responded with an 8-play, 60-yard drive of its own that concluded with a 5-yard touchdown run by Ryan Bonheyo to tie the game at 7-7 just seven minutes into the game.
The Spartans placed together another 11-play drive on the ensuing possession and was poised to score a touchdown before Brozowski had the ball jarred loose by senior safety Shelby Bean (Arvada, Colo.) at the Gallaudet 2-yard line and freshman Nate Holmes (Williamstown, N.J.) pounced on the loose ball in the end zone for a touchback.
Two plays later, Ryan Bonheyo took a sweep to the right, found a crease along the sideline, and cut back across the field for an 83-yard touchdown run. It was the game's longest play from scrimmage as the Bison led by seven, 14-7.
The next two possessions by the Bison in the second quarter featured fumbles by the Bonheyo brothers. First younger brother Todd fumbled on 4th down and 7 at the Castleton 25. The Spartans then punted the ball away to senior Tony Tatum (Gardendale, Ala.), who ran it back 26 yards to the Castleton 33. Todd Bonheyo hit senior wide receiver Kevin Berrigan (Frederick, Md.) for his only completion as the Bison picked up 21 yards. On the next play Ryan Bonheyo ran the ball from the Castleton 12 to the 6 before he fumbled the ball away at the 1-yard line. GU fumbled the ball six times in the game and lost two of them to the Spartans.
The teams traded punts before the Spartans were forced to punt for a fourth straight time in the first half with two minutes left before halftime. Gallaudet took the ball from its own 39 and marched straight down the field on back-to-back runs of 20 and 36 yards by Todd and Ryan Bonheyo, respectively. On the next play Ryan Bonheyo scored from five yards out with 1:23 left before the half. Freshman kicker Chase Magsig (Hudsonville, Mich.) had his extra-point attempt blocked by Mick Wong (seven tackles). Gallaudet was outscored 21-0 the rest of the game. Magsig later had a 33-yard field goal attempt blocked late in the third quarter by Wong.
The Spartans returned the ensuing kickoff 30 yards and were aided by a 15-yard Gallaudet penalty to place them just inside Bison territory with less than minute to play. Brozowski completed three passes and ran the ball twice before the Spartans took a timeout with 30 seconds left in the quarter as they sat on the Gallaudet 15. The next play Brozowski connected with Carpenter (eight receptions, 80 yards, one touchdown) on a touchdown pass with 22 seconds left before intermission.
The Bison defense had a tough task of slowing down the potent Castleton offense but they kept them in check for most of the afternoon. Sophomore linebacker Nico Santiago (Moorestown, N.J.) led Gallaudet with 10 tackles, one tackle-for-loss and a pass break up. Bean made eight tackles, intercepted one pass and forced the key first quarter fumble. Senior defensive end Jared Pearce (Reno, Nev.), junior defensive end Adham Talaat (Springfield, Va.), and sophomore linebacker Tobias Canterbury (Genoa, Ill.) each added seven tackles in the contest. Pearce had 2.5 tackles for a loss of nine yards and one sack for a loss of seven yards to go with two quarterback hurries. Senior defensive tackle Kevin Allen (Houston, Texas) had Gallaudet's other sack for a loss of nine yards as one of his four tackles in the game.
Castleton State defensive back Brandon Bergeron led the Spartans with 10 tackles, one pass breakup and one fumble recovery while defensive end Cameron Laundry made nine tackles.
Brozowski was held under 400 passing yards in the game for only the third time this season as his 338 yards against the Bison was the second fewest he has posted this year. Gallaudet ran 61 times for 416 yards, the most this season by the Bison. Last year, against the Spartans the Bison ran for 532 yards on 71 carries.
The Bison will play their final regular-season game at home on Saturday, Nov. 3, when GU welcomes Mount Ida College (7-1, 5-0 ECFC) to Hotchkiss Field for a noon kickoff between the conference foes on senior day.