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College Football: NH talent fortifies PSU

By ROGER BROWN
New Hampshire Union Leader

September 04. 2018 10:31PM




Milford High School graduate Mitch Banuskevich entered the 2018 season ranked 10th on Plymouth State University’s career rushing list with 1,431 yards, but he may not add much to that rushing total this year.

Banuskevich, a senior, has been shifted from running back to cornerback, and made three solo tackles to help the Panthers blank Castleton State, 38-0, Saturday in the season-opener for each team.

Plymouth State graduated three defensive backs from last year’s team, which finished the season fifth among Division III teams in scoring defense (9.8 points per game), so Banuskevich became the choice to help fill an obvious need.

“(Banuskevich) started at cornerback, but we’re prepared to have him play on both sides,” Plymouth State coach Paul Castonia said. “We lost all those guys in the secondary, we have some capable running backs and he’s such a good athlete. We have better depth in the offensive backfield.”

Plymouth State returned two interceptions for touchdowns against Castleton. Junior Matt Shea had a 4-yard interception return for a score, and senior Brady LaFrance scored Plymouth State’s final TD on a 39-yard interception return. Shea is an Atkinson resident who played football at Windham High School.

The Panthers had three interceptions in the game and limited Castleton State to nine first downs and 161 yards of offense.

“Shea is just a good, steady player and has been for three years now,” Castonia said. “Other than that it was a collective effort (on defense).”

Although Concord’s Jacob Szulc is expected to be the team’s top receiver — Szulc led Division III with 10 touchdown receptions after four games before suffering an injury last season — Weare’s Cooper Gorski had a team-high four catches for 43 yards against Castleton. Gorski, a sophomore wide receiver, graduated from John Stark Regional.

Gorski, Szulc and former Nashua South standout Terrell Lewis all figure to be a big part of the Plymouth State passing game. Lewis, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound sophomore, had two catches in the victory over Castleton, and Szulc had one reception for 30 yards.

“They should all be steady contributors,” Castonia said. “Gorski has gotten a lot better. It’s obvious the work he put in in the offseason has paid off. He looks different. He’s much stronger now.

“Another guy who did a good job blocking and catching is Zach Swanson, the tight end from Inter-Lakes. He’s another guy who last year just wasn’t quite ready physically to play.”

Swanson had two catches for 23 yards against Castleton. Plymouth State quarterback Zach Edwards completed 17 of 22 pass attempts for 207 yards and two touchdowns in the win.

Sophomore tight end Max Osgood is another New Hampshire resident who may help in the passing game. Osgood, a Nashua South graduate who began his college football career at the University of Rhode Island, had an 8-yard reception in Saturday’s victory.

After a bye this weekend, Plymouth State will face Western Connecticut State University in Plymouth on Sept. 15. Western Connecticut, which was picked third in the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference preseason poll, handed Plymouth State its only regular-season loss last season. The Colonials will open their season Saturday at Dean.

“They’re one of the best, if not the best, team we play in the conference,” Castonia said. “Just a different level of speed and size (compared to Castleton). It’s gonna be a huge challenge.”

rbrown@unionleader.com


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