Story and photo courtesy of Ithaca Athletics
ITHACA, N.Y. - The Ithaca football team scored the game-winning touchdown on a 58-yard touchdown pass from Phil Neumann (Burnt Hills/Burnt Hills-Ballston Spa) to Joseph Ingrao (Nesconset/St. Anthony's) with 32 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter of a 21-14 win over No. 7 Salisbury at Butterfield Stadium. It was the first ever Empire 8 loss for the Sea Gulls, who are in their second season as a member of the Empire 8 football conference. The Bombers are 5-3 on the season and 3-3 in the Empire 8. Salisbury fell to 6-2 overall and 4-1 in the conference.
On a cloudy, damp afternoon, Ithaca limited Salisbury's triple-option running attack throughout the game. Salisbury fumbled the ball four times in the first half, including one on the game's opening drive that Ithaca linebacker Zach Matuszak (Binghamton/Johnson City) recovered near midfield.
Ithaca used a big special teams play to help set up the game's opening touchdown in the first quarter. Sam Carney (Hanover, N.H./Hanover) fielded a line drive punt at Ithaca's 38 yard line and had great blocking set up down field for a 60-yard return to set the Bombers up first-and-goal at the 2. After three plays lost three yards, place kicker Garrett Nicholson (State College, Pa./State College Area) was run into during a field-goal attempt and the Bombers were awarded an automatic first down.
Bomber quarterback Phil Neumann (Burnt Hills/Burnt Hills-Ballston Spa) found fullback Jared Prugar (York, Maine/York) on a three-yard touchdown pass on the next play and Ithaca led 7-0 with 1:07 left in the first quarter.
Ithaca doubled its lead on its second drive of the second half, once again set up by a great punt return from Carney. He brought a punt back 35 yards to set up the Bombers at midfield. An eight-play, 50-yard drive was capped by a seven-yard touchdown run from Clay Ardoin (Dolgeville/Dolgeville) around the left side. That drive included a fourth-and-3 conversion on a pass from Neumann to Ingrao, and completions of 24 yards to Vito Boffoli (Hopewell Junction/John Jay) and 12 yards to Prugar.
Salisbury responded after falling behind 14-0 with a touchdown drive that covered 79 yards in 10 plays and ended with a four-yard run by Joe Benedetti with 15 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Gulls tied the score late in the fourth quarter. Salisbury got the ball back with 4:10 remaining on its own 37. They marched 63 yards in seven plays, sparked by a 28-yard pass over the middle and a 14-yard run by Benedetti to move the ball to the 10. On a third-and-goal play from the Ithaca seven, Dan Griffin threw a quick slant pass to slot receiver Isaiah Taylor and the extra-point tied the score with 1:41 left.
The Bombers returned the ensuing kickoff to the 19 yard line, and moved the chains with a 12-yard pass from Neumann to Ingrao on third-and-11. After a short pass and timeout, the winning play came on a deep pass over the middle to Ingrao, who outraced Salisbury defenders to the endzone.
Ingrao finished the game with six receptions for 110 yards and the game-winning touchdown. It was the fifth 100-yard receiving game of his career and fourth of the season. Neumann was 20-for-30 for 215 yards, no interceptions, and two touchdowns. Ardoin led Ithaca's rushing attack with 64 yards on 26 carries.
The Bomber defensive line and linebackers did a great job of containing and pursuing Salisbury's option attack and it allowed safeties Skylar Griffenberg (Hartsdale/Ardsley) and Tom Scanlon (Bethany, Conn./Amity Regional) to make several tackles in run support. Griffenberg, who made his second start of the year, had a career-high 14 stops including 10 solo tackles. Scanlon made nine tackles. Zach Matuszak (Binghamton/Johnson City) and Dan Cimino (New Paltz/New Paltz) had sacks in the game.
Ithaca returns to action Saturday, Nov. 3 at home against Hartwick. That game begins at 1 p.m.