Defensive Scores Not Enough as Sacred Heart Falls to Duquesne, 29-15
Fairfield, CT – Justin Embler (Cinnaminson, NJ) returned a fumble for a touchdown and the Pioneers blocked a fourth quarter punt for a safety but the SHU football team still came up short, 29-15, against Duquesne Saturday afternoon at Campus Field on Senior Day. Sacred Heart scored the first nine points of the second half and had the ball trailing by six late in the fourth quarter. However, the Duquesne defense, which also came up with two big interceptions in the game, stood tall to secure a Dukes victory.
Duquesne (8-2, 6-1 NEC) scored on its first possession of the game on a Larry McCoy 3-yard TD run. McCoy finished the afternoon with 149 yards on 30 carries and a pair of touchdowns. Both offenses then struggled to move the ball as neither side would gain more than 15 yards on the next four possessions.
Sacred Heart (5-5, 3-4 NEC) got its first big play of the game on a third and 15 as senior Michael Zambarano (Natick, MA) delivered a huge hit to the quarterback to knock the ball free. Embler scooped up the ball in the end zone for the touchdown to make it 7-6, DU. The Pioneer defense kept its momentum and immediately forced a Duquesne three and out.
The Pioneers would go on to march deep into Dukes territory and picked up a fourth down on a Tim Little (Egg Harbor Twp., NJ) pass to senior Rich Rossi (Moosic, PA). However, Jared Williams intercepted Little's next attempt at the five yard line. The Dukes capped a 14-play, 95 yard drive with a 33-yard touchdown reception by Connor Dixon. The visitors also scored on its next possession following another long Dixon catch just before halftime, giving Duquesne a 21-6 advantage heading into halftime.
The Sacred Heart defense again came up with a game changing play on just the second snap of the second half. Niko Sierra (Longmeadow, MA) came up with an interception that eventually set up SHU with prime field possession. Four plays later Greg Moore (Newark, NJ) dove across the goal line to complete a 13-yard scoring run that cut the Pioneer deficit to one score at 21-13.
The Pioneers drove deep out of their own territory mid way through the fourth quarter but were forced to punt on a fourth and 13 situation from the Duquesne 41 yard line. Rob Shepherd (Groton, CT) dropped a punt perfectly inside the five and after a holding penalty the Dukes got the ball at their own two. Tyler Foehr (Florence, NJ) recorded a sack on third down to force DU to punt from the back its end zone.
Connor Caveney (Fitchburg, MA) would block the punt over the back line for a safety and pull SHU to within six, 21-15. It was the Pioneers sixth block of the season, their fourth on a punt, and the second that directly resulted in points.
The Dukes defense forced three straight incompletions and a sack on fourth down to quickly get the ball back. On the next play from scrimmage McCoy scored from six yards out and Duquesne ran in the two point conversion to round out the final score line at 29-15. The Pioneers would be unable to gain yards in their final turn with the ball as Duquesne secured their fourth straight victory.
Rock Tate (Lantana, FL) paced the Pioneer receiving core with seven catches for 73 yards. Rossi hauled in six receptions for 56 yards while Zambarano, a fellow senior led the SHU defense with eight tackles.
The Sacred Heart football team finishes the season on the road next weekend, looking to wrap up a winning season, against NEC rival Albany.