By Adam Levine
The Framingham State Rams defeated the Westfield State Owls 9-8 in their MASCAC matchup at Bowditch Field Sept. 23.
This marked Framingham’s first win of the season. The Rams now hold an overall record of 1-2 and a conference record of 1-1.
Framingham’s running back, Devaun Ford, who rushed for 158 yards, recorded 54 passing yards, and scored a rushing touchdown, said the win “feels refreshing.”
He said, “I know we started off kind of slow, 0-2. We got some points back up on the board today and our defense always holds it down. It was good to come out on the winning side today.”
The first half ended scoreless. Each team had six drives, but both the Rams’ and Owls’ defenses held strong.
Framingham fumbled the ball twice on the offensive end, while Westfield fumbled the ball once.
The Rams held the Owls to negative yards on two of their six offensive drives.
Framingham’s offense struck first in the first drive of the second half.
Framingham’s Ford and quarterback, Elijah Nichols, rushed for 26 and 21 yards, respectively, to open the half.
Framingham’s kicker, Matthew Farley, finished the drive with a successful 27-yard field goal. The Rams took a 3-0 lead.
Neither team scored in the following four drives, which consisted of each team both punting and throwing an interception.
Framingham’s cornerback, Elton Williams, intercepted a pass from Westfield’s quarterback on the Framingham 38-yard line, preventing a possible Westfield score.
Westfield’s defense forced a quick 3 and out offensive drive and the Rams punted the ball.
The Owls capitalized on their momentum and pieced together a touchdown drive in their final possession of the third quarter.
Westfield scored with a 22-yard touchdown reception capped off with a successful 2-point conversion.
The Owls led 8-3 entering the fourth quarter.
Westfield’s defense once again held the Rams to an unsuccessful offensive drive and forced a punt.
The Owls marched their offense down the field, traveling 31 yards over seven plays.
Framingham’s defensive back, Adeboye Oyaronbi, stopped Westfield’s march by forcing a fumble just five yards shy of a Westfield touchdown.
The momentum shifted and Framingham’s offense sparked.
Ford and Nichols were in sync - rushing, passing, and incorporating a trick play in which Ford completed a 54-yard pass to wide receiver Manny Lara.
Ford said, “Coach called it and I knew we were close to the end zone so my biggest thing was just not taking a safety.
“I rolled out, caught the pass, saw Manny wide open, and I just let it fly and he made a great play and did the rest,” he added.
Nichols said, “Some plays, when stuff breaks down, I know where Devaun is going to be.
“He'll say something like ‘Yo, E! E!’ and I'll find him and he’ll take it 20 yards.
“It's easy to have somebody like that in the backfield with you,” he added.
Framingham’s crucial offensive drive finished with a 3-yard rushing touchdown by Ford.
Framingham's 2-point conversion failed, but the Rams took a 9-8 lead over the Owls.
The slow, defensive-driven game came down to Westfield's final drive in the closing three minutes.
With less than 4 minutes left in regulation, Westfield’s defense forced the Rams to punt.
The Owls pieced together a 43-yard drive to the Rams’ 15-yard line.
With just seven seconds left on the clock, Westfield lined up for a 32-yard field goal.
As the clock ticked and with the game on the line, Framingham’s defense made the biggest play of the game.
Framingham’s linebacker, Najier Montiero, blocked Westfield’s field goal and the football was recovered by fellow linebacker Jared Martino.
Martino said, “Big-time players make big-time plays.
“I knew we got the dub. I knew there was no time on the clock, so I felt great.
“Seeing everyone on the sideline run on the field, it was a great feeling - something I'll never forget,” he added.
Framingham’s Defensive Coordinator, Rich McKenna, said, “We still had faith in our defense because we have some good athletes and I knew they still had to execute the field goal.
“Fortunately for us, we were able to get some penetration and get a hand on it,” he added.
Martino earned the 2023 Calder Award, named in memory of Ram John Calder and awarded to the MVP of the Homecoming Game.
Martino said, “It's an absolute honor for the whole committee to decide for me to win this award.
“It's bigger than football,” he added.
Martino earned MASCAC Defensive Player of the Week and Monteiro earned MASCAC Co-Special Teams Player of the Week Sept. 24.
Prior to their win over the Owls, the Rams were outscored by their opponents 62-7 and allowed an average of 293 total offensive yards per game.
The Rams only allowed 194 total offensive yards to Westfield’s offense and held them to just 8 points.
McKenna said, “On the defensive end, the first two games we've been put in some bad spots.
“We had to tighten up and we just had to accept the challenge that no matter where the drive starts, we've got to keep them out of the end zone.
“I'm just proud of our defense. I'm proud of our guys,” he added.
On the offensive end, the Rams’ offense recorded 187 yards and 227 yards, respectively, in their opening games, averaging 207 total offensive yards per game.
In their game against Westfield, Framingham’s offense recorded 329 total yards, 114 coming from passing and 215 from rushing.
Nichols, who has played wide receiver for most of his FSU career, stepped in as quarterback for the game.
He said, “I actually got the call around maybe 7-8 p.m. [Friday] and they said, ‘You’re going to be the starting quarterback.’
“I was ready - extremely confident. I've been playing quarterback since I was 6 years old.
“I felt comfortable. I was ready to go,” Nichols added.
Framingham’s Head Coach Tom Kelley said, “A win’s, a win’s, a win. I’ll take it.
“We’re going to try to build on this and we certainly have a lot of things to clean up,” he added.
The Rams travel to Plymouth State for another MASCAC matchup Sept. 30.