University of New England running back Jack Mahoney runs for a big gain during the Nor’easters football game against Castleton Saturday afternoon at Blue Storm Stadium in Biddeford. Mahoney rushed for 79 yards on 18 carries as the Nor’easters took down the Spartans, 31-21 to earn their second win of the season. (TAMMY BELANGER PHOTOGRAPHY)

BIDDEFORD – It took just three games for the University of New England football team to match its win total from last year.

The Nor’easters moved to 2-1 this season behind a balanced offensive attack and an opportunistic defense that took advantage of Castleton’s giveaways on its way to a 31-21 win over the Spartans at Blue Storm Stadium in Biddeford Saturday afternoon.

“We’re just night-and-day from where we were last year,” Peters said. “Just overall so much better. It’s really exciting to see the growth of this team.”

Peters completed 16 of 25 passes for 353 yards and three touchdowns as the Nor’easters compiled for 500 yards of total offense. Devon Charles and Jack Mahoney combined for 136 yards rushing. Peters’ 34-yard touchdown pass to Cobey Johnson late in the second quarter put UNE ahead 17-7 heading into halftime.

Castleton cut into the margin with 9:35 left in the third quarter when Simon Davis Jr. punched one in from five yards out to make it 17-14. But that’s the closest the Spartans would get, thanks to a standout defensive play from defensive back Nick Lombard. 

With the Spartans backed up in their own territory at the 30-yard line, Lombard intercepted a forced throw from quarterback Jacob McCarthy, who was being taken down by a pair of Nor’easters defenders as he released the ball. Three plays later, Peters found Jack Mahoney for a touchdown to put UNE ahead 24-14.

The Nor’easters recovered a Castleton fumble on the ensuing kickoff to take over at the 19-yard line. And, after a Castleton pass interference to put UNE at the four yard line, running back Devon Charles scooted in for a score to make it 31-14 with 4:15 left in the third.

“The defense did a heck of a job of turning the ball over and getting it back to us,” Peters said. “We’d like to do a better job of giving back to them, though.”

Despite compiling 500 yards of total offense, UNE had some mistakes of their own. Peters threw an interception in the first quarter, and the Nor’easters turned the ball over on downs twice near the goal line to potentially extend their lead. Peters said UNE can’t continue to give away the ball going forward. 

“We got to clean up the turnovers,” Peters said. “We were good all the way around except for the turnovers.”

UNE head coach Mike Lichten agreed that the Nor’easters needs to clean up on the turnovers, but he was happy to see his team put together a strong game on both sides of the field overall. 

“The kids played hard, they played disciplined,” Lichten said. “We bent but didn’t break on defense, and we were able to bounce back from some mistakes on offense.”

After dropping its season opening game, a 27-17 loss to Coast Guard on Sept. 7, UNE has responded with two impressive wins behind the strength of its offense, which has combined for 985 yards in that span. Lichten said the early-season success has been a byproduct of the team’s mantra, ‘Throw to score, run to win.’ 

“I think it speaks to the fact that the guys are focused on taking it one day at a time,” Lichten said. “They’re focused on the process and believe the results will come. If they do that, we’ve already had some good results and we hope to get a couple more.”

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