Pioneers Drop NEC Opener to Wagner
Fairfield, CT – Before a record 4,288 person crowd at Campus Field, Wagner kicker Bryan Maley nailed a game-winning 42-yard field goal with just four seconds left in the game to defeat the Sacred Heart Pioneers, 23-20, in the Pioneers first conference game of the season.
SHU scored 17 straight points to tie the game up at 20 with a little over two minutes left in the game but could not close the deal. It is the Pioneers first loss of the season as they drop to 5-1 overall and 0-1 in the Northeast Conference.
Sophomore linebacker Kellen Sperduto (Oldwick, NJ) racked up a school record 22 tackles in the defeat, including 3.5 tackles for loss. The Sacred Heart defense, as a whole, racked up four sacks, 12 tackles for loss and an interception.
Sacred Heart kicked off the scoring with a Chris Rogers (Cazenovia, NY) 29-yard field goal after SHU received the opening kickoff and drove the ball down 64 yards. A 19-yard completion from Noel to sophomore tight end Frank Bakirtzis (West Orange, NY) highlighted the drive, and also Spence rushing for 16 yards on 6 carries.
After their opening drive field goal, SHU had trouble moving the ball the rest of the first half. The Pioneers fumbled the ball and then punted five straight times to end the first half.
Wagner took the lead in the beginning of the second half after driving the ball 46 yards down to the Sacred Heart 12 yard line. From there, standout running back Dominique Williams was able to find the end zone on a 12 yard touchdown run to give Wagner a 7-3 lead with 13:36 left in the second quarter. SHU looked to have Williams cornered in the backfield before he was able to swiftly escape and break several tackles on his way into the end zone.
Wagner added a field goal with 36 seconds left in the second half to give grab a 10-3 lead heading into the halftime break.
After exchanging a couple punts each, the Wagner defense came up with the next big play to stretch their lead. Senior defensive end Davon Johnson came around the blind side to sack and force a Noel fumble. Sophomore defensive end Mike Mentor picked up the fumble and took it 24 yards to the house.
Following a Greg Moore (Newark, NJ) fumble, Wagner added a 45-yard Maley field goal to give them a 20-3 lead with 44 seconds left in the third quarter.
After the Wagner field goal, the SHU offense finally came alive on their next drive. Spence brought the record crowd to their feet with an electrifying 55-yard run in which he ran over several Seahawk defenders on his way down the sideline. Two plays later, Noel found Moore in the back corner of the end zone to cut Wagner's lead to ten points.
Following a Wagner punt, Sacred Heart once again moved the ball down field to set-up a 14-yard touchdown completion from Noel to sophomore wide out Moses Webb (Manassas, VA). Dube snatched a 15-yard reception to start the drive, followed by a couple short completions to senior wide receiver Greg Moore. Two plays later, Noel found junior wide receiver Bobby Johnson (Uncasville, CT) for a 16-yard completion to put SHU on the Wagner 17-yard line.
The Pioneers tied up the game with 2:02 left in the fourth quarter on a 31-yard field by Rogers.
The two minutes left in the game was too much for Wagner, who drove the ball down to the SHU 29-yard line to set-up the Smaley game-winner.
Sacred Heart hosts in-state Central Connecticut next Saturday on Campus Field at 1:00 pm.