Susquehanna rallies in the final seconds to down the Golden Eagles
By: Liam Hoffmann
BROCKPORT, NY – The Brockport Golden Eagles’ home opener went down to the wire in a game in which the No. 22 Susquehanna River Hawks won 6-5. Defense was the name of the game in this contest as not a single touchdown was scored.
For Susquehanna, sophomore quarterback Josh Ehrlich played well enough to overcome Brockport. He finished with 139 yards through the air on top of 57 yards rushing. It was true dual-threat usage for Ehrlich as he threw 23 passes and attempted 22 runs.
On the other hand, the passers for the Golden Eagles struggled. In the first quarter, on the back of senior quarterback Todd Simonds, Brockport’s first three drives all were upended quickly. They didn’t muster a single first down in that time. Head coach Jason Mangone chose to turn to freshman quarterback Jake Ritts in the second quarter.
Ritts ended the day with only a single completed pass on six attempts, going for four yards. Simonds was eventually reinserted to the game but to similar results. Simonds’ only threw for 22 yards against the River Hawks. He added 39 more running the ball.
Susquehanna’s first three drives didn’t end in any points either. Physicality across the line of scrimmage as well as downfield by both defenses kept the game low-scoring. Linebackers Ben Robinson as well as Louisiana College transfer Mike Talbert Jr. were around the ball all day for the Golden Eagles. Robinson was credited with 16 total tackles and Talbert finished with 11 tackles including 2.5 tackles for loss and a huge sack on Ehrlich early in the second quarter.
Freshman Matt Surtz and sophomore Tommy Grabowski split the bulk of the running back work for the River Hawks. However, Surtz was by far the more efficient runner on the day, finishing with 61 rushing yards on 10 carries.
Generally, though, it was very difficult for either offense to operate in an efficient way. In the second quarter, Susquehanna's offense was backed up deep in their territory and senior punter Aaron Kahn had to boot out of the shadow of his own end zone. This set up the Golden Eagle offense on Susquehanna's side of the field.
The offensive game plan for Brockport shifted to heavy usage of senior Jala “Cheat” Coad. A pair of runs from Coad followed by an 11-yard run on a keeper by Simonds got the Golden Eagles into the red zone for the first time all day. But, the principle of “bend, don’t break” was on full display as solid pass coverage from Susquehanna’s defense was able to keep the Golden Eagles out of the end zone.
“With our back against the wall, we stood up really well there. I was proud of them for that, to keep that thing to a field goal,” Susquehanna head coach Tom Perkovic said.
The field goal by senior kicker Nate Wigent from 30 yards out began the scoring as Brockport got out to a 3-0 lead.
Nearing the end of half number one, Ritts was under center once more for the Golden Eagles. Ritts fumbled the football at midfield and senior defensive back Keith Green III scooped it up, returning it to the 15-yard line of Brockport. With only four seconds remaining in the period, Susquehanna trotted out their kicking unit to attempt to tie the game. Junior kicker Christian Colasurdo of the River Hawks split the uprights as time expired and the game was tied at three heading into the break.
In half two, the defenses continued to battle in the same way.
“We are all about defense here, man. About tenacity, grit, fighting through adversity. It’s about a fight,” Mike Talbert Jr. said.
Susquehanna started with the ball in half-two. Just after crossing mid-field, Josh Ehrlich’s pass was intercepted by senior defensive back Kyle Haettich. But, even with great starting field position, the Brockport offense was unable to string together a scoring drive. Susquehanna's pressure got to Todd Simonds as he threw three straight incompletions, and the Golden Eagles were forced into another punt.
Susquehanna was more reliant on Grabowski in the second half. Following the interception they committed to running the football, with Ehrlich carrying the rock frequently as well.
In all, there were 18 punts in the game between the two sides. The most consequential for Susquehanna came early in the fourth quarter when Kahn was once more near his own end zone, punting from the 10-yard line. Senior wide receiver Ryan Jafarjian blocked the punt and it was sent out of the back of Susquehanna's end zone for a safety. Brockport retook the lead, making the score 5-3.
The next Susquehanna offensive series saw them reach Brockport’s 3-yard line. The bulk of production on this drive once more came on the backs of Tommy Grabowski and Josh Ehrlich running the football. When attempting a go-ahead field goal on fourth down, the Golden Eagles once again came up huge on special teams. Senior linebacker Vincent Daviero blocked the kick and kept his team in the driver's seat.
Susquehanna would get one more chance to score, taking possession with 1:44 remaining on the clock. After back-to-back incompletions thrown by Ehrlich, a game-saving 19-yard hook-up from Ehrlich to senior wide receiver Jacob Erb kept the drive alive.
A few plays later, Josh Ehrlich let go of an unbelievable 49-yard bomb to junior wide receiver Kyle Howes. Howes reeled it in before being tackled at the 1-yard line with only five seconds remaining in the game and Susquehanna called timeout.
On the next snap, Christian Colasurdo drilled the 28-yard field goal, shocking the Golden Eagles and allowing the Riverhawks to escape with the victory.
Next week, on Sep. 16th, Susquehanna will get a huge test, visiting the No. 10 ranked SUNY Cortland Red Dragons.
Also, on Sep. 16th the Golden Eagles will head to Wilkes-Barre to face the Wilkes Colonels. Be sure to catch that game on 89.1 The Point, with the pregame show kicking off at 11:30 a.m and kickoff slated for noon.