Story and photo courtesy of Franklin & Marshall Athletics
HUNTINGDON, Pa. - E.J. Schneider and Frank Strumolo had career days as Franklin & Marshall escaped with a 45-38 over Juniata in Centennial Conference (CC) football action on Saturday afternoon. Schneider tossed five touchdowns and finished with 319 yards on 26-for-30 passing while Strumolo added 127 yards on the ground with two rushing scores and one receiving touchdown.
Juniata (1-3, 0-3 CC) struck first when Deonte Alston crossed the goal line with 2:13 remaining in the first quarter before F&M (3-1, 2-1 CC) quickly responded with back-to-back scores to take the lead for good at 9:40 in the second. Schneider found Paul McGann to complete an eight-play, 57-yard drive for F&M's first score at 13:49 and Strumolo dove in from a yard out to make 13-7.
The Eagles settled for a field goal two possessions later to make it 13-10 at 1:13 and looked to go into the break only trailing three. F&M had other plans as Schneider led the Diplomats on a seven-play, 58-yard drive in 45 seconds that ended with a 14-yard Jordan Zackery touchdown catch. F&M threw on every play in the series with Schneider going 5-for-6 for 58 yards.
F&M went three and out to start the second half and Juniata punched one in on its next drive to come within three, 20-17, with 8:53 left in the third quarter. The Diplomats countered with three straight scores to take a 38-17 edge at 1:25 in the third.
Strumolo broke off a 59-yard run for his second touchdown of the game, which put F&M up 26-17. Schneider found McGann again, this time for a 47-yard touchdown on the first play of F&M's next possession as the Diplomats took a 15-point, 32-17, edge with 3:54 left in the third.
F&M's defense picked up two sacks and forced Juniata to a three and out, and a short punt later the Diplomats started its next series with the ball on the Eagles 42. Three plays later, Schneider hooked up with Tim Muller for a 27 yard score to give F&M its largest lead of the day, 38-17, with 1:25 left in the third quarter.
Juniata responded with two unanswered scores to come within seven, 38-31, at 11:21. Ward Udinskli found Quadir Christian on a 47-yard bomb for the first score and took it in from one yard out for the second touchdown, which was setup by a fumble on the kickoff.
The Diplomats slowed the game down on its next series and took nearly five and a half minutes off the clock. The drive was kept alive with a critical fourth down conversion on the Juniata 25-yard line. On fourth and four, Schneider found Paul Koehler on a 23-yard pass to put F&M on the Juniata two. Three plays later, Schneider connected with Strumolo for a 10-yard score and Chris DeStefano's extra point kick put F&M up 45-31 with 5:26 left in the game.
Both teams turned the ball overs on downs on their next possessions and the Eagles took control of the ball on their own 48 with 2:18 remaining in the game. Juniata wasted little time, marching the ball 41 yards, on six plays, in 1:12 that resulted in a 13-yard touchdown pass from Udinski to Zach McCaulley and a 45-38 score.
Juniata kicked an onside on the ensuing kickoff and Sam Massaro fell on the ball to seal the victory.
Muller finished with a game-high 121 receiving yards on seven catches and McGann added 78 yards on five catches.
Devin Hunter averaged 44.7 yards on three punts; with a long of 58 while Aaron Fant picked up 110 yards on four kickoff returns.
Brian Velasco led the F&M defense with 12 (5a, 7a) tackles and Massaro finished with 11 (5s, 6a) stops. Kenny Provost had eight tackles, two went for losses, and joined in on a sack.
C.T. Marsh had seven stops, two for a loss and finished with a sack, which puts him four away from becoming the all-time leader in sacks in the CC. Brendan Wengerter, Mike Skin, Ryan Young and DeStefano all finished with six stops apiece.
F&M returns to action next Saturday when the Diplomats travel to Dickinson for the Battle of the Boot. Game time is set for 1:00 p.m.