LORETTO, Pa. (September 18, 2010) – The Sacred Heart Pioneers turned the ball over seven times, all on interceptions, on their way to suffering a 41-0 loss at the hands of Saint Francis (PA) Saturday afternoon in Northeast Conference action. The Pioneers were shutout for the first time since a 24-0 loss to Monmouth on October 7, 2006.
SHU finished with 268 yards of total offense, 149 on the ground, but seven picks proved costly as the Pioneers fall to 1-2 overall and 0-2 in the NEC. The Red Flash got three touchdowns passing and another on the ground from r-sophomore quarterback John Kelly as they pick up their first win of 2010.
R-Senior Dale Fink (Swansea, IL) completed just 13-of-32 passes for 72 yards and a career-high four interceptions. Senior Ray Sheehan (Howard Beach, NY) threw three interceptions in relief of Fink, one going for the final score of the game. Sacred Heart finished just three of 17 on third down and punted seven times in the loss.
The Pioneers struggled offensively throughout the entire first half, punting four times, turning it over on downs and throwing a pair of interceptions. SHU managed just 85 yards of offense, 64 coming on the ground. Senior Marcel Archer (Miami, FL) had eight carries for 61 yards, 20 coming on his final carry before the half. Fink completed just six-of-14 for 21 yards and threw a pair of picks.
Saint Francis took the opening kickoff and needed just five plays to cover 68 yards with quarterback John Kelly hitting his running back Kyle Harbridge on a swing pass for a 16-yard score. The big play on the drive came on a third-and-five at the SFU 37-yard line as SHU flushed Kelly from the pocket and had the QB on the run. Kelly improvised and heaved a pass down field to Harbridge, covering 52-yards to set up his offense on the SHU 11-yard line.
The Pioneers second drive of the game started with an 18-yard scamper by Archer to midfield but two plays later, SHU would suffer their first turnover. Fink dropped back and looked for a quick strike over the middle but missed nose guard Robert Smith dropping back into coverage and the 6-1, 315 pound sophomore made the interception giving his team the ball on the SHU 48-yard line.
The Red Flash drive stalled out but a second Pioneer miscue offensively would lead to a second Saint Francis score. A three-and-out on offense had Sacred Heart lined-up to punt on their own 28-yard line when the snap hit up-back Chris Mandas (Mission Viejo, CA). SHU fell on the loose ball but the Red Flash found themselves set up first down on the Pioneer 20-yard line. Kelly needed just three plays to give his team a 14-0 lead, hitting Jeff Wasilewski on a nine-yard slant for six.
SHU put together an eight-play drive to open the third quarter and were on the move into Red Flash territory when the turnover bug struck again. Fink was picked off for the third time as corner back Jakob DeMedal stepped in front of wide out Mark Uyeno (Setauket, NY) and took it 71-yards for a score. The touchdown was wiped out after the Red Flash were flagged for a personal foul on the return and the Pioneer defense responded, forcing a three-and-out as SHU dodged a bullet.
The Pioneer offense struggles continued and went three and out for the fifth time forcing a punt from Robert Shepard (Groton, CT) out of the SHU end zone. The Red Flash took advantage of the low line-drive punt as Dave Domonkos shook a pair of tacklers and scampered his way to a 47-yard return before Shepard knocked him out at the Pioneer seven-yard line. Kelly, who had already tossed a pair of scores, capped off the drive with a one-yard plunge for a 21-0 lead with 7:52 left in the third.
Fink looked to have the Pioneers on the board on the ensuing drive but his 43-yard pitch-and-catch to Uyeno for six was negated by a holding penalty. The Red Flash defense tightened back up and forced the fifth punt of the day by Shepard. The fourth quarter opened with Harbridge capping a six-play, 61-yard drive with his second score of the day. Harbridge broke off left tackle, got the sideline and sprinted 38-yards for the score and a 28-0 lead with 14:44 left.
The Red Flash came up with their fourth pick of Fink just before the end of the third quarter and put the game out of reach with a Kelly to Daniel Conley six-yard score for a 35-0 lead with 11:44 left in the game. Sheehan came in for Fink but saw his second and 11 pass picked by linebacker Matthew Parker who returned it 75-yards for the score to produce the final, 41-0.
The 41-point loss is the largest margin of defeat by a Pioneer team since a 49-8 loss at home to Monmouth on October 6, 2007.
SHU's Archer finished with 80 yards on 17 carries while r-freshman Gregory Ibe (Queens, NY) totaled 79 yards on 11 touches. Shepard punted six times for an average of 40.7 yards per kick. Defensively, junior Titus McIntosh (Ft. Lauderdale, FL) finished with 11 tackles.
The Pioneers will stay on the road for one more week as they travel to Dartmouth College next Saturday. The Pioneers will be facing their first-ever opponent from the Ivy League. Kick-off is scheduled for 1:30 pm.