LANCASTER, Pa. – Franklin & Marshall escaped with a 41-36 victory over Susquehanna Saturday afternoon in Centennial Conference (CC) football action. The Diplomats improved to 5-3, 5-2 CC while the Crusaders fell to 1-7, 1-6 CC.
The game went back-and-forth all afternoon with 860 yards of offense by both teams with the Diplomats striking first. F&M forced the Crusaders to a three-and out on their first possession before Tyler Pollick blocked the ensuing punt and Nick Porcelli fell on the ball in the end zone to give F&M the early advantage.
SU answered on its next possession with a 73-yard drive that ended when Pat Murtha took it in from two yards out to the tie the game at 7-7. The defenses settled in as neither team scored for over 15 minutes of action, before E.J. Schneider capped off a six-play, 46-yard drive with a one-yard jaunt to give F&M the lead for good, 14-7, at 9:16 in the second quarter.
F&M went up two scores when Jack Gallagher hauled in a 19-yard pass with 52 seconds left in the first, but the Crusaders marched down the field on their next possession and connected on a 32-yard field goal to make it 21-10 at the break.
The Crusaders came out strong in the second half, holding onto the ball for the first 7:16 of the third quarter. SU marched 65 yards in 10 plays on its first drive to come within four, 21-17, at 10:42 in the third. F&M fumbled on the kickoff and the Crusaders fell on the ball and converted the turnover into three points six plays later to make a one point, 21-20, contest.
F&M answered with a 10-play, 89-yard drive that took 5:30 off the clock. The drive featured a heavy dose of Schneider who accounted for all but two yards of the drive and ended with him taking it in from four yards out to make 28-20 with 2:10 left in the third.
29 points were scored in the fourth quarter making for a dramatic finish. Susquehanna struck first to make it 28-26 before Frank Strumolo scored on a four yard run to put the Diplomats up 35-26 at 13:21. The score was set up by a 53-yard pitch and catch from Schneider to Jordan Zackery on the first play of the series.
The Crusaders countered with a 43-yard field goal by Spencer Hotaling at 9:13 to come within six, 35-29. F&M answered by taking 6:26 off the clock and moving 59 yards down the field. Zackery finished off the drive with a 13 yard catch from Schneider to make it 41-29 with 2:42 left to play.
SU responded with a score that took just 1:02 off the clock to come within five, 41-36, with 1:39 left to play. The Crusaders attempted an onside on the ensuing kickoff, but were called for illegal touching, giving F&M the ball on the SU 43. Four plays later, Schneider quick kicked the ball on fourth down, giving the Crusaders one more chance with 28 seconds left. SU was able to get off two more plays, but gain substantial yards and ran out of time.
Schneider completed 19-of-24 passes, including a perfect 11-for-11 in the second, for 246 yards and two scores and added 79 more on 14 rushes and two more scores.
Strumolo racked up 122 yards on 22 rushes and a score for the Diplomats.
Billy Zwicharowski went 5-for-5 on PATs.
Ryan Young led the way defensively with a game-high 15 tackles (5s). Brendan Wengerter had 12 stops (7s) including two for a loss while Chris DeStefano and Sam Butler both finished with eight a piece.
F&M hits the road next week when the Diplomats travel to Johns Hopkins for a 12:00 p.m. contest.