October 27, 2007

Sacred Heart Comeback Falls Short in 35-30 Loss to Saint Francis (PA)

Oct. 27, 2007

Final Stats

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (October 27, 2007) - The Sacred Heart football team scored three-straight fourth quarter touchdowns but couldn't overcome a 25-point deficit, coming up short, 35-30 to visiting Saint Francis (PA) in Northeast Conference actions Saturday afternoon. SFPA's Tyler Gillmen rumbled his way for 19-yards on a fourth-and-three with just over two minutes left to pick up the game clinching first down and help deliver his team their first win of 2007. The loss dropped SHU to 3-6 overall while they remain winless in the NEC at 0-4.

The start of Saturday's game was delayed for nearly two hours with the Saint Francis (PA) team stuck in a traffic gridlock situation off I-95 on their way to SHU. Once the game kicked-off just before 3:00 pm, the two teams traded field position until the Red Flash took advantage of the first turnover of the game. Freshman linebacker Matt Parker picked-off a Dale Fink (Swansea, IL) pass at the SHU 27-yard line setting up his offense. Five plays later, quarterback George Little hit Ryan Zarnich from 10-yards out to draw first blood with a 7-0 lead.

The Pioneers (3-6, 0-4 NEC) got on the scoreboard midway through the second quarter as Fink engineered a 13-play drive that stalled out at the Saint Francis 12-yard line. Sophomore kicker Joe Schroeder (Jackson, NJ) banged home a 29-yarder to pull within 7-3. It looked as if the two teams would head to the locker room with the score 7-3 but a big play on special teams got the Red Flash on the board again.

SHU lined-up to punt the ball away to Saint Francis with just over a minute to go when for the fourth time this season someone busted through to block a Derek Marks (East Lyme, CT) attempt. Chad Iachini blocked the kick clean with Brent Sanders swooping in to pick-up the loose ball at the SHU 13-yard line to run it in for a 14-3 lead with 57 seconds on the clock. The Pioneers answered back quickly as Fink found sophomore Steve Tedesco (Mission Viejo, CA) on a 44-yard strike that sent the Pioneers into the locker down just 14-10.

The third quarter wasn't kind to SHU as the Pioneers rang up more penalty yards then offensive yards. SHU ran 24 plays in the quarter for 96 yards but were flagged nine times for 152 yards over the 15 minutes of action. The Saint Francis offense was forced to punt but caught their second big break of the game as Tedesco mishandled the attempt, his second fumbled punt on the day, and Omar Winston recovered on the SHU 29. On the Red Flashes' second play Little found Antoine Rivera down the right sideline for a 29-yard hook-up and a 21-10 lead.

It looked like the Pioneers would pull within 21-17 late in the quarter as Fink moved the team down to the Saint Francis nine-yard line. Facing third and goal, Fink found senior Dario Melendez (Boca Raton, FL) in the back of the endzone but the play was called back on an illegal block. A false start and delay of game penalty later and Fink was sacked on fourth an goal on the SFPA 35-yard line, killing the drive.

The Red Flash (1-6, 1-3 NEC) took complete control of the game on the first two possessions of the fourth quarter. Running back Cal Williams capped off the Red Flashes' opening quarter drive with a 22-yard scamper for six and linebacker Matt Parker got his second interception off Fink this time taking it 61-yards to the house and a 35-10 Saint Francis lead with 10:27 to go.

The Pioneers began their rally on their next possession as Fink and Tedesco hook-up for the second time, a 15-yard toss to the corner. The drive was set up by a 54-yard kickoff return by junior Ed Gurrieri (Manalapan, NJ). SHU tried to onside kick but Saint Francis recovered and Adam Sciulli lined up for a 43-yard field goal on fourth down but his attempt banged off the right upright.

SHU took full advantage and wasted little time in cutting the lead to 35-24. The Pioneers covered 73 yards in just 53 seconds with Fink and Tedesco completing the trifecta, this time from 11-yards away. The Red Flash again recovered the ensuing onside attempt but the Pioneer defense held and forced a three-and-out to give the offense the ball back again 4:32 on the clock.

Senior running back Jason Payne (Cortlandt Manor, NY) finally busted out on the second play from scrimmage, ripping off a 75-yard touchdown run to pull SHU within 35-30. The Pioneers went for two to cut it to just a three-point game but Fink's pass to Tony Patterson (Groton, CT) was broken-up by corner Ricky Williamson.

SFPA's Rivera recovered his third-straight onside kick on the ensuing attempt setting up his team with the ball on their 46 with 4:00 left. The Pioneer's got three-straight stops, all by cornerback Jeff Hodges (Royal Palm Beach, FL) setting up the fourth-and-three. With everyone in attendance expecting the punt, Red Flash head coach Dave Opfar called for the fake and it worked to perfection. The snap went to the up-back Gillmen who had nothing but day light in front of him on the right side line and the freshman fullback took the ball down to the SHU 19-yard line allowing his team to run out the clock for the win.

The Pioneers got 183 yards rushing on 22 carries from Payne in the loss. Fink finished the day completing 24-of-47 passes for 289 yards, all career highs. All three of his touchdowns went to Tedesco who finished with nine catches for 184 yards. The duo have hooked-up for nine scores this season with today marking the second time this year they have connected three times in a game for touchdowns (3 vs. Assumption). Offensively, SHU picked up 21 first downs and complied 460 yards on the day.

Defensively, senior John Wilson (Bloomfield, CT) once again led the Pioneers in tackles with seven, six solo. Senior Robert Occhiuzzi (Red Bank, NJ) had four tackles and a sack while fellow senior Bill Hayden (Milford, PA) picked up a sack as well.

The Red Flash to 79 yard rushing from Williams while Little completed nine of 20 for 113 yards and the two scores. Scott Lewis finished with 11 tackles on defense while Parked added seven stops to his two-picks.

Sacred Heart will be on the road next Saturday but stay in state as they head to Central Connecticut for a 5:00 pm kickoff. xxxxxxxxx