Poplaski, Candon lead football past Tufts

Contact: William Sodoma
Date: November 3, 2007
WATERVILLE, Maine ­--- Mike Poplaski (North Reading, Mass.), who missed all of last season with a serious knee and ankle injury, made his final home game with Colby College a memorable one with a fumble recovery for a touchdown to lift the Mules to a 19-16 win over Tufts University on Saturday at Seaverns Field.

Colby improves to 2-5 overall heading into next Saturday’s 12:30 game at Bowdoin College. The winner of that contest will win the Colby-Bates-Bowdoin (CBB) Championship. Tufts came into the day in a first place tie in the New England Small College Athletic Conference with Middlebury College, but left Waterville with a 5-2 record.

Poplaski had two fumble recoveries and one key sack in the fourth quarter as the Mules battled back from a 16-6 halftime deficit. The first half was played in dry weather, but the rains hit about the middle of the third quarter and changed the complexion of the game.

With the Jumbos nursing a 16-13 lead, Tufts quarterback Matt Russo (Longmeadow, Mass.) lost control of the ball and fumbled at his own 25-yard line. Poplaski, a 255-pound nose tackle, scooped up the ball and raced 25 yards up the middle of the field for what proved to be the game-winning points.

Poplaski also made two big defensive plays in the final five minutes. He had an 11-yard sack of Russo on a 3rd-and-11 play with about three minutes remaining. Poplaski then made his second fumble recovery with 16 seconds left after teammate Sam Handler (Beverly Hills, Calif.) knocked the ball away from Russo.

The game was tied 6-6 after the first quarter. The Jumbos led 6-0 after Russo connected on a 23-yard pass play to Stephen Black (San Diego, Calif.). The Mules got their touchdown on a 16-yard scoring strike from Patrick Burns (Charles Town, W.V.) to Justin Candon (Rutland, Vt.).

The Jumbos went ahead 13-6 when Russo crashed in from 1-yard out on a quarterback sneak with 12:47 left in the second quarter. Tufts added a 21-yard field goal by Greg Stewart (Wilmington, Mass.) with just 27 seconds remaining to halftime for the 16-6 lead at the break.

The change in weather helped the Mules in the second half. Colby held Tufts to just three first downs in the second half and the Mules used a trick play to make the score 16-13 in the third quarter. Running back Dan Prunier (Merrimack, N.H.) hit Candon on a 9-yard halfback option pass with 11:28 left in the period.

Candon finished with nine catches for 105 yards and the two touchdowns. He has 18 catches for 252 yards and four touchdowns in the past two games. Senior captain Chris Bashaw (Rutland, Mass.) added 52 yards of rushing and chipped in with four catches for 48 yards. Prunier had 35 yards receiving and the touchdown throw, while quarterback Billy Ryan (Madison, Conn.) completed 19 passes for 208 yards.

Tom Daley (North Bridgton, Maine) and Kevin Bird (Dover, N.H.) led Colby’s defense with nine tackles apiece. Michael Talarico (Arlington, Mass.) added eight stops. Stephen Albertine (Coral Springs, Fla.) made nine tackles for Tufts.

Colby 19, Tufts 16

Tufts...............  6 10  0  0  - 16      Record: (5-2,5-2)

Colby...............  6  0  7  6  - 19      Record: (2-5,2-5)

1st 11:52 TUF - Stephen Black 23 yd pass from Matt Russo (Greg Stewart kick blockd), 9-0 3:08, TUF 6 - COL 0

05:50 COL - Justin Candon 16 yd pass from Patrick Burns, 14-74 5:58, TUF 6 - COL 6

2nd 12:47 TUF - Matt Russo 1 yd run (Greg Stewart kick), 9-37 3:57, TUF 13 - COL 6

00:27 TUF - Greg Stewart 21 yd field goal, 9-40 2:45, TUF 16 - COL 6

3rd 11:28 COL - Justin Candon 9 yd pass from Dan Prunier (Victor Gagne kick), 8-57 3:25, TUF 16 - COL 13

4th 11:26 COL - Mike Poplaski 25 yd fumble recovery (Victor Gagne kick failed), , TUF 16 - COL 19

RUSHING: Tufts-Darren Ferguson 16-94; Chris Guild 11-14; Stephen Black 1-7;   Kevin Gleason 1-4; Matt Russo 6-minus 17; Tom McManama 1-minus 19. Colby-Chris   Bashaw 23-52; Roger Bel 8-16; Dan Prunier 4-12; Patrick Burns 1-1; Billy Ryan   3-minus 1.

PASSING: Tufts-Matt Russo 18-33-1-189; Tom McManama 0-5-0-0. Colby-Billy Ryan   19-33-1-208; Dan Prunier 1-1-0-9; Patrick Burns 1-1-0-16.

RECEIVING: Tufts-Kevin Gleason 6-43; Kevin Anderson 4-24; Stephen Black 3-87;   David Halas 3-13; Ryan Crisco 1-18; Chris Guild 1-4. Colby-Justin Candon 9-105;   Chris Bashaw 4-48; Dan Prunier 4-35; Matt Hellinger 2-30; Ernie Bove, Jr. 1-11;   Roger Bel 1-4.

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