- Score: Assumption 49, Merrimack 19
- Records: Assumption (1-1), Merrimack (0-2)
- Location: North Andover, Mass. (Merrimack Stadium)
- The Lead: Assumption gave up a touchdown to Merrimack on its opening drive, but responded with the next 42 points on the way to a dominating 49-19 performance as the Hounds gave head coach Andy McKenzie his first career victory on Saturday evening.
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- Merrimack took the opening drive and methodically moved down the field, going 84 yards in 13 plays to take a 7-0 lead on a 21-yard touchdown pass. Assumption fumbled on its next possession and the Warriors took over on their own 17 yard line. Four plays later they punted the ball. Deonte Harris (Middle River, Md. / Archbishop Curley) took the punt 63 yards all the way back to the end zone, tying the game 7-7 with 5:01 left in the first quarter.
- Assumption grabbed the lead on its next possession. The Hounds went 70 yards in 8 plays, capped off by a nine-yard touchdown run by Khaleed Exum-Strong (Norwichtown, Conn. / Norwich Free) right up the middle. The Hounds nearly stretched their lead even further on the ensuing possession, but an interception in the endzone ended the scoring threat with 8:34 left in the half.
- Merrimack managed 26 yards on its next drive before punting and pinning Assumption on its own 20-yard line. On second down, Harris caught a slant and beat one defender on the way to a 78-yard touchdown and 21-7 advantage with 3:54 left in the half.
- Following a three-and-out by the defense, Assumption took over and marched down the field once again, moving down to the 11-yard line with 40 seconds left in the half. On second down, Cody Williams (Wilbraham, Mass. / Springfield Central) found Doug Santos (Peabody, Mass. / Peabody Veterans) a wheel route for the 11-yard score and 28-7 halftime edge.
- Assumption took the second-half kickoff and needed seven plays to go 63 yards and extend its lead to 35-7. Exum-Strong punctuated the drive with a 23-yard touchdown run right through the teeth of the defense. On the team's next drive, he stretched the lead to 42-7 with a nine-yard scamper to cap off a ten-play drive.
- Merrimack ended the Assumption scoring streak with a 15-yard touchdown run before the end of the third to trail by 29 points. The Warriors recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and came away with seven more points to make it 42-19 with 3:30 left in the third.
- In the fourth, the Hounds continued to use its potent ground attack and added one more touchdown. Freshman Joseph Kellum (Mt. Laurel, NJ / Lenape Regional) provided the final score with a 20-yard run for the 49-19 lead and the defense did the rest as Assumption finished with the 30-point win.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS:
- Assumption racked up 28 first downs and 526 yards of offense, with 225 through the air and 301 on the ground. The defense, meanwhile, limited Merrimack to 326 yards of offense and just 112 rushing yards on 28 attempts.
- Williams finished 11-for-15 for 117 yards and one touchdown while Marc Monks (Annandale, N.J. / North Hunterdon) went 5-for-7 for 108 yards and one touchdown. The duo added 39 combined rushing yards. Harris caught two passes for 101 yards while Tyis Boykin (Worcester, Mass. / St. Peter-Marian) led all receivers with six catches for 47 yards. Harris added 86 punt return yards and totaled two touchdowns.
- Exum-Strong rushed eight times for 90 yards and three scores while Santos also had 90 yards on ten carries. Kellum added 84 yards on 15 rushes with his first career touchdown. As a team Assumption averaged 6.8 yards per rush and surpassed 300 yards for the first time since the 2015-16 season.
- The 63 yard punt return touchdown by Harris was the eighth of his career and the 13th return touchdown of his career. The 13 total return touchdowns ties the NCAA all-division record of 13 set by James Rooths of Shepherd (1997-00).
- Defensively, Joe Kim (Edison, N.J. / Edison) had seven tackles while Levi Fancher (Beacon Falls, Conn. / Woodland Regional) added six tackles and one sack. Stephon Hill (Baltimore, Md. / Boys' Latin School of Md.) chipped in five solo stops with two pass breakups.
- Christian Carter went 19-for-42 for 214 yards and two touchdowns to lead Merrimack. He also rushed 11 times for 57 yards. Cody Demers was his primary target, catching eight passes for 91 yards and a score.
- Assumption returns to action on Friday, when the team hosts Saint Anselm at 7 pm in Multi-Sport Stadium.