Story and photo courtesy of Shippensburg Athletics
The No. 13 Red Raider football team overcame a 21-point deficit in the first half on Saturday afternoon and pitched a second-half shutout to come away with a hard-fought 42-24 victory over West Chester in front of a capacity Homecoming crowd of more than 6,000 spectators from Farrell Stadium.
Shippensburg (8-0, 5-0 PSAC East) improved its current winning streak to 12 games, its longest since 1981, to set up a 1 p.m. showdown next weekend with No. 4 Bloomsburg from SU Student Association Field at Seth Grove Stadium to determine the divisional champion.
The Red Raiders did not achieve their first lead of the day until 12:37 remained on the clock, as redshirt-freshman quarterback Chris Lawshe capped off a 4-play, 69-yard drive with a plunge into the end zone from three yards out. It was the first of three fourth-quarter touchdowns for the Red Raiders.
After a West Chester punt, junior quarterback Zach Zulli needed just four more plays to pad SU’s lead. Sophomore Trevor Harman caught a 24-yard pass from Zulli to give SU a 35-24 lead, three plays after a 57-yard touchdown play to Harman was negated because of a holding penalty.
Another Golden Ram punt gave SU the ball with 6:02. The Red Raiders clinched the win by using the rush to run over five minutes off the clock, and with 51 seconds remaining, Zulli threw a 14-yard strike to Harman for the game’s final score.
Zulli threw for 342 yards and five touchdowns, completing 29-of-49 passes. He broke the school record for career total offense by an individual (the old record was 6,135 – previously held by Mike Carver ‘97), bring his career total to 6,277 yards, and also passed Carver on SU’s career passing list by moving into third place (5,806). Zulli’s school record for career passing touchdowns improved to 72.
Harman added four more touchdown receptions to his ledger, bringing in five total receptions for 81 yards. Harman has 14 touchdown receptions through eight games this season and is one short of Jamie Ware’s single-season record set in 1998.
Senior Jacob Baskerville led all players with nine receptions for 139 yards and one touchdown. His final catch of the day, a 16-yard reception in the fourth quarter, made him the 10th player in school history to record 100 receptions in a career.
Arguably the most impressive aspect of the second half was the SU defense keeping West Chester off the scoreboard after the Golden Rams had put up 24 points in the opening 30 minutes of play.
One of the game’s most critical plays came midway through the third quarter, when junior safety Tyriq Kershaw picked off a pass on the SU 8-yard line and returned the interception 77 yards into the WCU red zone.
Senior Cody Fleming led all Red Raiders with 13 tackles, including 1.5 for loss. He is now 1.5 tackles for loss short of tying head coach Mark ‘Mac’ Maciejewski ‘92/’96M’s career record (51.0). Senior Mark Kahlil Smith, senior Saeed Khateeb and junior Jake Metz each had a sack on Saturday while SU recorded eight tackles for loss as a team.
Kershaw also forced a fumble on the game’s final kickoff while junior Mike Goode took advantage of a starting opportunity by recording six tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery.
Shippensburg did not commit a turnover in Saturday’s game while forcing four of its own. SU also scored on four of its five trips into the red zone, with the only blemish being a blocked field goal late in the third quarter.
West Chester (5-3, 3-2 PSAC East) scored touchdowns on its first three drives Saturday but did not get into the end zone over the game’s final 44:44. Its only other points came on a 40-yard field goal by Shawn Leo with one second left before halftime.
Rondell White ran 24 times for 124 yards and a touchdown, while quarterback Mike Mattei was 19-of-28 for 275 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
More details about next Saturday’s game will be announced early on in the week. Shippensburg is planning a “RED OUT” and encouraging all who attend to wear red in support of the football team.