When Artis Holt returned the opening kickoff of the second half 81 yards for a touchdown, Merrimack went ahead of New Haven by 11 points and had all the momentum in yesterday’s battle for first place in the Northeast-10 Conference in North Andover.
That’s when the Chargers’ Mike DeCaro took over.
DeCaro ran for three second-half touchdowns to cap a five-TD outing and New Haven, ranked No. 18 in Division 2, pulled away for a 44-35 win that solidified the Chargers’ place atop the league standings.
DeCaro ran for 84 yards and four touchdowns and also caught six passes for 64 yards and another TD for New Haven (8-1, 6-0).
After Holt’s run gave Merrimack (5-3, 4-2) a 35-24 lead, DeCaro led the Chargers back. He ran 4 yards for a TD with 2:21 left in the third quarter to make it 35-31, then put the Chargers ahead, 38-35, with a 9-yard run 2:27 into the final quarter. He sealed the win with a 3-yard TD run with 2:45 to go.
Before DeCaro’s heroics, James Suozzo had put the Warriors in position for the win. Suozzo went 16 of 35 for 221 yards and a touchdown and ran for 38 yards and two scores. Isaiah Voegeli had five catches for 124 yards and a TD, his eighth straight game with more than 100 receiving yards.
Western New England 40, Endicott 37 - In another first-place showdown, Mike Graham returned two kickoffs for touchdowns and the host Golden Bears withstood outstanding efforts by the Gulls’ Phil Konopka and Mike Lane to take control in the NEFC Boyd Division.
Konopka completed 38 of 53 passes for a school-record 407 yards and three touchdowns and Lane rushed for 128 yards on 23 carries with a TD, but Endicott (8-1, 5-1) couldn’t overcome Graham’s two returns.
Brayce Brown threw for a pair of touchdowns for Western New England (8-1, 6-0).
Georgetown 19, Holy Cross 6 - Isaiah Kempf and Wilburn Logan had long second-half touchdown runs and the visiting Hoyas (7-2, 3-1 Patriot) forced five turnovers to hold off the Crusaders (4-4, 2-1).
Ryan Taggart scored on a 9-yard run with 1:32 remaining for Holy Cross.
Sacred Heart 27, Robert Morris 15 - Tim Little threw for two touchdowns and rushed for another to help the visiting Pioneers (5-3, 3-2 Northeast) rally past the Colonials (2-6, 2-2).
St. Francis (Pa.) 27, Central Conn. St. 13 - Kyle Harbridge ran for 187 yards and two touchdowns and the host Red Flash (2-7, 1-5 Northeast) shut down the Blue Devils (2-7, 1-5).
Southern Conn. St. 16, Stonehill 6 - Rashaad Slowley rushed for 168 yards and a touchdown and Andre Privott returned a punt 35 yards for a TD in the first quarter, lifting the host Owls (7-2, 6-1 NE-10) past the Skyhawks (2-7, 1-6).
Bentley 28, Pace 0 - Bryant Johnson completed 7 of 10 passes for 156 yards and three touchdowns, Bobby Tarr ran for 101 yards, and the visiting Falcons (5-4, 4-3 NE-10) dominated from start to finish in a rout of the Setters (1-7, 0-6).
Assumption 24, Saint Anselm 20 - Matt Pedone rushed for 155 yards on 23 carries and burst 39 yards for the winning touchdown with 4:31 to go as the Greyhounds (4-4, 3-3 NE-10) rallied from two 10-point deficits to knock off the Hawks (1-7, 1-5) in Manchester, N.H.
Framingham St. 14, Coast Guard 7 - Melikke Van Alstyne ran 39 times for 180 yards and two touchdowns and the host Rams (7-2, 6-0) clinched their first NEFC Bogan Division title by holding off the Bears (1-7, 1-5).
Van Alstyne, the sophomore running back from Salem, set a school record by increasing his season total to 1,399 yards.
UMass-Dartmouth 33, Curry 7 - William Bizcaino returned fumbles 30 and 46 yards for touchdowns and Joe Teixera returned an interception 52 yards for another TD as the visiting Corsairs (5-4, 4-2 NEFC Boyd) rode their defense to a win over the Colonels (4-5, 2-4).
Phil Bigelow ran for 95 yards for Curry, which outgained UMass-Dartmouth, 292-136, but couldn’t overcome 10 turnovers, including six fumbles.
Worcester St. 35, Fitchburg St. 0 - Tony Tokarz threw only six passes but he completed all of them, with three going for touchdowns of 69, 37, and 26 yards as the visiting Lancers (7-2, 4-2 NEFC Bogan) blasted the Falcons (2-7, 1-5). MIT 23, Nichols 0 - Justin Wallace gained 190 yards on 41 carries and scored three touchdowns, pushing the host Engineers (2-6, 1-5 NEFC Boyd) past the Bison (0-9, 0-6).
Salve Regina 28, Plymouth St. 7 - Bradley Skeffington threw two touchdown passes and the Seahawks (6-3, 4-2 NEFC Boyd) broke open a close game with a pair of fourth-quarter TDs to knock off the host Panthers (4-5, 2-4).
Bridgewater St. 27, Maine Maritime 0 - Justin Fuller rushed for 147 yards and three touchdowns and the visiting Bears (6-2, 4-2 NEFC Bogan) recorded their first shutout of the Mariners (4-4, 2-4) since 1986.
Westfield St. 11, Mass. Maritime 0 - Michael Mercadante gained 74 yards on 27 carries and scored on a 1-yard run midway through the first quarter and the defense did the rest for the host Owls (4-5, 3-3 NEFC Bogan) by recovering five of seven fumbles by the Buccaneers (5-3, 3-3).
Colby 37, Bates 13 - Nick Kmetz passed for 293 yards and three touchdowns and Connor Walsh scored three times - running, receiving, and passing - as the host Mules (2-4 NESCAC) opened Colby-Bates-Bowdoin play with a rout of the Bobcats (2-4).
Amherst 30, Tufts 0 - Brian McMahon passed for one touchdown and ran for another in the first quarter as the visiting Lord Jeffs (6-0 NESCAC) swamped the Jumbos (0-6).
Williams 14, Hamilton 7 - Adam Marske threw two TD passes to JC Stickney in the first quarter for the Ephs (4-2 NESCAC) and the defense limited the host Continentals (2-4) to minus-30 yards rushing.
Trinity 42, Middlebury 7 - Stephen Goniprow returned an interception 71 yards for a TD 2:45 into the game and the visiting Bantams (6-0 NESCAC) used a balanced running attack to breeze past the Panthers (2-4).
Bowdoin 12, Wesleyan 6 - Zack Donnarumma rushed for 158 yards but the host Polar Bears (3-3 NESCAC) needed Pat Boone’s 85-yard punt return for a score in the third quarter to get past the Cardinals (3-3).
Gallaudet 59, Castleton St. 40 - Shane Brozowski completed 30 of 42 passes for 290 yards and three TDs for the Spartans (3-5, 2-3 ECFC) but the visiting Bison (5-3, 4-1) rushed for 532 yards to get the win.
Norwich 45, Anna Maria 24 - Andrew Fulford and Kris Sabourin combined to rush for 120 yards and had two touchdowns apiece, lifting the host Cadets (6-3, 6-0 ECFC) past the Amcats (0-8, 0-5).
Mount Ida 22, Becker 6 - Scott Drosendahl completed only 6 of 11 passes for 82 yards but two went for touchdowns as the visiting Mustangs (4-4, 3-2 ECFC) edged the Hawks (1-8, 1-5).
Hobart 27, WPI 13 - Ernie Mello rushed for 129 yards and a touchdown but the host Engineers (2-6, 1-4 Liberty) fell behind, 20-7, in the first quarter in falling to the Statesmen (6-0, 4-0), ranked 25th in Division 3.
Springfield 62, Hartwick 41 - Quarterback Josh Carter ran for 246 yards and four touchdowns and Austin Bateman rushed for 195 yards and three scores as the visiting Pride (5-3, 3-3 Empire 8) rolled past the Hawks (2-6, 0-5).