By Dan Harrison
---- — BEVERLY — Before a football team can truly begin to grow, its players need to take care of the things that are under their control.
Endicott College learned this lesson the hard way Saturday as pre-snap penalties kept the Gulls from performing offensively, allowing visiting Kean University to grab its first win of the season, 24-17.
The Gulls (1-2) had a trio of false starts in the first quarter and then, in an attempt to tie the game on their final drive of the afternoon, had two more false starts, including one on 4th-and-5. The hosts couldn’t convert that 4th-and-long, and the visiting Cougars were able to take a knee to end the contest.
“We jump offsides, we jump offsides, and we jump offsides,” Gulls head coach J.B. Wells lamented after the game. “There’s too many things we can control that we’re not doing right now. It’s all pre-snap penalties. We shot ourselves in the foot, and we’re not giving ourselves enough of a chance.”
The defense did everything it could to keep Endicott in the ballgame. Gulls signal caller Drew Fernette threw a pick-six in the first quarter before a bad snap on a punt put the Cougars on the Gulls’ 25-yard line. Two plays later, Kean’s Christian Bailoni took a QB-read draw 20 yards for a touchdown to put the Cougars on top 13-0.
The Gulls were shut out in the first half and trailed, 16-0, but it could’ve been much worse if their defense hadn’t come up with a gutsy goal-line stand in the second quarter, when Kean has it 1st and goal on the Endicott 3-yard line.
Later in the third quarter, the New Jersey school was threatening to put the game out of reach when Endicott’s Jason Silva picked off Bailoni in the end zone. Silva grabbed his second interception minutes later, returning it 43 yards down to the Cougars 12-yard-line. That set Dylan Rushe for a 26-yard field goal to finally put Endicott on the board.
“When their backs were against the wall, they bowed up,” Wells said of his defense. “They came up with plays when we needed them. It’s good to have a good defense.”
The special teams made up for its mistakes (the Gulls also muffed a punt) when Beverly native Curtis Manuel burst through the line and blocked a punt, giving Endicott great field position. Frenette rushed in a touchdown from three yards out to slice the hosts’ deficit to 16-10 late in the third quarter.
But Kean responded with a 65-yard drive, capped off by a 3-yard touchdown run by Bailoni. The Gulls were able to get one more score on a 1-yard rush by Trevon Offley, but on their final drive, the line false-started and couldn’t protect Frenette.
It was a theme in the game. Whenever the Cougars brought pressure and Frenette had to make a quick decision, his accuracy suffered.
“That was key. When we sat back (Frenette) was able to sit, catch, rock and throw,” Kean University head coach Dan Garrett. “We wanted to get pressure in his face.”
Andrew Holfinger (one sack, one deflected pass) had an outstanding contest in the defensive trenches for Endicott, tying Beverly native Nick Kozlowski with a team-high 11 tackles. Sophomore split end Alec Matys had a team-high 103 receiving yards on seven catches. He set up Frenette’s touchdown run with a dazzling one-handed catch on a 43-yard reception down to Kean’s 3-yard line.