Story and photo courtesy of Susquehanna Athletics
SELINSGROVE, Pa. – Facing a one-loss team did not faze the Susquehanna football team in the least as the Crusaders defeated Franklin & Marshall for the second year in a row by a 24-17 score.
It was a back-and-forth battle that came down to the final few plays of the game but 14-point fourth-quarter that included both offensive and defensive scores sealed the win for SU (4-4, 3-4).
The fourth quarter was highlighted by freshman Nick Aigeldinger’s (Mountain Top, Pa./Crestwood) 28-yard interception that turned into seven-points for SU as he ran it all the way to the F&M endzone to make it 17-14 and put SU back on top. Mike Ritter (Selinsgrove, Pa./Selinsgrove Area) followed that with a 19-yard touchdown pass from Taylor Kolmer (Churchville, N.Y./Churchville) that made it a 10-point Crusader lead (24-14) and essentially iced the game.
The Diplomats (6-2, 5-2) did rack up 436 yards of offense, limited SU to 213 yards and had the ball for 34 minutes of the game but the Crusaders were the ones who came up with the timely plays.
While SU had only 11 net yards on the ground, the team did not turn the ball over and had two clutch touchdown receptions by Ritter, who accounted for 168 of those 224 yards on 10 catches. Kolmer went 15-for-24 for 213 yards with zero picks.
The story was the same for the defense as the unit gave up a significant number of yards but came up with critical plays when needed, including Aigeldinger’s interception return for a touchdown. Aigeldinger finished with seven tackles, one interception and two pass break-ups.
Adrian Bernard (East Stroudsburg, Pa./Pius X) had a team-high 14 tackles, including one for a loss, and Will Dyson (Hawley, Pa./Wallenpaupack) racked up three pass breakups to go along with 10 tackles.
It was actually F&M that got on the board first with a touchdown pass from E.J. Schneider to Frank Strumolo less than two minutes into the second quarter.
SU responded by scoring 10 unanswered points, among which was Ritter’s first TD catch of the game, and was able to hold on to a 10-7 halftime lead when the Diplomats’ Chris DeStefano missed a 25-yard field goal attempt.
Thirteen minutes passed in the third quarter before Schneider tossed a touchdown pass to Tim Muller to hand a 14-10 lead to F&M.
Unfortunately for the Diplomats, SU put together a 14-0 run thanks to Aigeldinger and Ritter. F&M was only able to put a field goal on the board with 50 seconds left and the Crusaders recovered the subsequent on-side kick attempt to end the game.
Kicker Spencer Hotaling (Selinsgrove, Pa./Selinsgrove Area) finished with a 39-yard field goal, five kickoffs for an average of 65.4 yards per kick and punted six times with a long of 59 and an average of 43.7 yards per punt attempt.
Susquehanna travels to McDaniel next Saturday for its final road game of the season. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.