Courtesy of Gannon Athletics
- Clarion scored the game’s only offensive touchdown with 4:39 left in regulation and escaped Gannon University Field with an 11-10 victory Saturday afternoon in Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) football action.
Trailing 10-5, Clarion drove 68 yards in eight plays for the winning score. The Golden Eagles opened the series with a 10-yard completion, before picking up the final 58 yards on the ground. The biggest play was Alfonso Hoggard’s 15-yard run on third-and-six from the Gannon 35-yard line. On the next play, freshman quarterback Ben Fiscus then faked the handoff and raced 20 yards for the winning score as two Gannon defenders tackled Hoggard in the backfield. The two-point conversion failed, leaving the score at 11-10.
Gannon had two final chances to win the game, but saw both drives end with interceptions. On third-and-eight from the Gannon 48-yard line, Geoff Hicks (Buffalo, N.Y./Cleveland Hill) managed to get open on the left sideline. However, the pass sailed high and was picked off by Andrew Paronish at the Clarion 36-yard line.
Defensive coordinator Brad Rzyczycki’s troops forced a three-and-out, allowing the offensive unit one last shot. Gannon drove to midfield, but a Jay Pettina interception off a high pass that went through a receiver’s hands at the Clarion 33-yard line ended the game.
Saturday’s contest had a rocky feel to it from the get-go. Gannon drove to the Clarion 23-yard line on its opening possession, only to see an interception end the scoring threat. On Gannon’s third possession, Clarion earned a safety when a snapped sailed over Zach Boedicker’s (Northfield, Ohio/Nordonia) head and into the endzone. The senior then kicked the ball out of bounds for a safety.
Additionally, Clarion received great field position after Gannon was forced to kick off from its 20-yard line into a stiff wind. The Golden Eagles return the ball to their 47-yard line, before an additional 15 yards were tacked on for a face mask penalty. However, Gannon stunned the momentum swing six plays later when Chris Cook (Cleveland, Ohio/Shaw) intercepted a pass in the endzone and raced 100 yards for a touchdown with 1:17 left in the first quarter. It marked the longest interception return in school history, beating out a 95-yard return by Tomar Pettis against Mercyhurst in 2006.
Unfortunately, another Gannon penalty set up Clarion’s next score. The Golden Knights were forced to kick into the wind from its 15-yard line after an unsportsmanlike penalty due to celebrating after the score. A 35-yard return by Alfonso Hoggard put the Golden Eagles at the Gannon 30-yard line. Clarion lost three yards on the next three plays, before Robert Mamula nailed a 50-yard field goal with 17 seconds in the first quarter.
Gannon answered on its next possession. The drive started with a 37-yard swing pass from Boedicker to Tyler Batts (Homestead, Pa./Penn-Trafford) which took the Golden Knights to the Clarion 30-yard line. The drive stalled there and Jeremy Ditzler (Erie, Pa./Iroquois) tied a school record with a 50-yard field goal at the 13:33 mark of the second quarter. The kick tied Adam Foust’s 50-yard effort against Thomas More in 1998.
Gannon drove to its 48-yard line and Clarion’s 44-yard line during its next two possessions, but could not produce any points as the Golden Knights took a 10-5 lead into halftime.
Neither team was able dent the scoreboard again until Clarion’s winning score late in the fourth quarter. Gannon’s best opportunity to stretch the lead came midway through the third quarter. Albert Benedict (Solon, Ohio/Solon) pinned Clarion inside the 10-yard line, before the Golden Eagles went three-and-out. The ensuing punt gave the Golden Knights great field position at the Clarion 41-yard line. But a nine-yard sack immediately brought the squad back to midfield and forced a punt three plays later.
Clarion held advantages in total yards (229-186), rushing yards (161-19) and time of possession (36:52-23:08). The Golden Knights were 2-of-13 on third down and averaged only 0.6 yards per rush.
Batts accumulated 24 rushing yards despite the team being held to 19 total yards due to negative plays. The senior tailback also led the receivers with five catches for 66 yards.
Boedicker was 14-of-28 through the air for 167 yards, while rushing for 13 yards on 18 carries. Hicks and Levar Goff (Rochester, N.Y./Greece Athena) complimented Batts’ pass catching skills with three receptions each.
Three Golden Knights reached double digits in tackles. Parris Williams (Penfield, N.Y./Penfield) and Randy Colling (Arcade, N.Y./Pioneer) led the way with a game-high 11 stops. Williams recorded the total for the third time in his career and second time this season. The mark represented a career-high for Colling. Ian Jeffers (Silver Spring, Md./Springbrook) also posted a career-high with 10 tackles and two sacks.
In the defensive secondary, Cook picked off two passes in the same game for the second time during his career. The junior cornerback moved into fourth place all-time at Gannon with 10 career interceptions, 11 shy of the school record.
Benedict was the special teams star of the game. The senior punter averaged 40 yards on eight kicks. More importantly, he kept seven out of Hoggard’s hands and had four downed inside the 20-yard line. One of the nation’s most dangerous kick returners, Hoggard’s only punt return resulted in a loss of three yards.
Gannon dropped to 5-4 overall and 3-3 in the PSAC Western Division while seeing its two-game win streak snapped. Clarion improved to 3-6 overall and 3-3 in conference play after winning for the third time in four games. The Golden Knights conclude their road schedule Saturday, November 6 at Slippery Rock. Game time is scheduled for 1 p.m.