NEWPORT — The Salve Regina University football team squeezed out a 27-18 victory Saturday over Dean College in a nonconference matchup at Toppa Field.
The Seahawks produced 336 yards of total offense, led by freshman running back Joey Mauriello, who finished with 160 yards on the ground and two touchdowns. Sophomore quarterback Jake Kelleher threw for 146 yards with one touchdown that was caught by junior receiver Brendan Nunes.
“We got Tyler [McGovern] in early and Jake in," Seahawks coach Kevin Gilmartin said of his two sophomore quarterbacks. "It looked like it was going to be a run game and he’s our run quarterback, so we definitely went with [Kelleher] a little bit more. A lot of different players are getting on the field and getting experience, and hopefully that’s going to help us down the road.”
The Seahawks entered their home opener with a 1-1 record, coming off a 37-14 loss to Montclair State of New Jersey in another nonleaguer. The Bulldogs (0-3) were looking for their first win of the season.
It took the Seahawks just three minutes to put the first points on the board. A 5-yard touchdown reception by Nunes and a successful extra point from senior Andrew Verre capped a quick, eight-play drive to put the home team up 7-0.
“[Nunes] is the dude. He’s the player. They would double him, come up over the top of him and say, ‘You’re not going to get it’ to him, yet he still got four catches and 76 yards,” Gilmartin said of the 6-foot, 170-pounder from Attleboro, Mass.
After a long but unsuccessful drive by the Bulldogs, the Seahawks kept the pressure on offensively. Highlighted by a 30-yard reception by Nunes, setting up Salve in the red zone, the scoring drive was completed by Mauriello’s persistent push into the end zone. It gave the Seahawks a 14-0 lead entering the second quarter.
Starting from their own 15-yard line with five minutes left in the half, the Bulldogs had some catching up to do. The first play of the drive was a 35-yard rush by freshman DeAndre Grange, followed by a defensive pass interference call that put the Bulldogs’ offense on Salve’s 35-yard line. Three rushes by Grange put the Bulldogs eventually led to a 2-yard touchdown rush by freshman Quintus Reid. The extra point kick was missed, but the Bulldogs cut the lead to 14-6.
The final drive of the first half didn’t end quite as the Seahawks’ would have hoped. After five unsuccessful attempts to find the endzone, the Seahawks settled for a 23-yard field goal to make the score 17-6 after two quarters.
It was deja vu for the Seahawks in their first drive of the second half. After a 50-yard run by Mauriello to put them on Dean’s 4-yard line, the Seahawks were unable to break the plane after multiple rush attempts. They once again had to kick a field goal that extended their lead to 20-6.
The Bulldogs, though, answered. They kept the ball out of the air and marched their way to Salve’s 18-yard line. Freshman quarterback Terrell Watts found junior receiver Julian Burris, who made his way into the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown. Dean’s 2-point conversion attempt, a Watts pass, fell incomplete.
Dean really put the pressure on when Reid hauled in a 64-yard scoring pass early in the fourth quarter to cut the visitors’ lead to 20-18. But once again, the Salve defense on the ensuing 2-point conversion play.
Salve gave itself some breathing room and capped the scoring on a drive that included a 23-yard pitch-and-catch from Kelleher to Nunes. Mauriello carried the ball the rest of the way, his 1-yard scoring run and his second touchdown of the game.
The Bulldogs made one final push with a 13-play drive, but only got as far as Salve’s 23. The Seahawks regained possession and were able to run out the clock.
“[You’ve] always got to enjoy the win, you take that win and you enjoy it,” Gilmartin said. “Anytime you get one, you better appreciate it.”
The Seahawks move to 2-1 and will face Western Connecticut State, which defeated Dean 33-22 last week, in another nonconference game on Saturday at Toppa Field.
“We definitely have a very good team coming at us … We’ll keep getting better, keep moving forward, watch the tape, keep on correcting the mistakes,” Gilmartin said.
Extra points: Ryan Lawton hauled in two passes for 53 yards, while Mauriello had 31 receiving yards on two catches. … Saturday marked Mauriello’s first career 100-yard game. … Defensively, John Salute and Brandon O’Neill each registered a sack, and O’Neill recorded two tackles for loss. In total, the Seahawks had seven tackles for loss.