LANCASTER, Pa. – Franklin & Marshall opened the 2016 football season with a decisive 30-6 victory over Lebanon Valley Saturday afternoon at Sponaugle-Williamson Field. The win is the third straight over the Dutchmen since the teams renewed their rivalry in 2014.
F&M went ahead early on its first series when the Diplomats took over on their own 48-yard line after the defense forced a three-and-out. Taalib Gerald did most of the damage on the 52-yard scoring drive with 30 yards on the ground, including a one-yard plunge to put the Diplomats up 6-0 with 7:50 left in the opening quarter.
The Dutchmen battled back and tied the game in the early minutes of the second quarter to make it 6-6 on a Tim Pirrone rush with a little under 10 minutes left until halftime. F&M answered two series later with a 9-play, 54-yard drive to take the lead for good.
F&M took advantage of a personal foul by LVC on third-and-10 and a 14-yard completion from Tanner Erisman to Bobby Keyes combined with a 16-yard rush by Erisman two plays later put the Diplomats inside the LVC 15. The Diplomats went down to the seven but had to settle for a 24-yard field goal by Billy Zwicharowski and took a 9-6 edge into the break.
Gerald started the second half off with a 40-yard jaunt on the Diplomats first play of the third quarter. Six plays later David Shellhammer ran it in from the four to finish off an 8-play, 71-yard drive that gave F&M a 16-6 lead. With 3:25 left in the third, LVC took over on its own 36, but Michael Gaval fumbled the ball on a reverse, and Vincent Moffett recovered the fumble, giving the Diplomats the ball back.
F&M wasted little time and on the very next play, Erisman found Bobby Keyes in the end zone for a 29-yard touchdown to put the Diplomats up 23-6 at the end of the third quarter. F&M tacked one more score on early in the fourth when Gerald broke loose for a 28-yard score to put the game out of reach.
Gerald finished the day with 135 yards on 19 carries and two scores. He averaged 7.1 yards a touch and scored twice with a long rush of 40. Shellhammer added 36 on nine runs, and Taylor Collison finished with 35.
Erisman tossed for 129 yards on 15 completions and one score while Keyes paced the receivers with 66 yards on five grabs with a touchdown.
Brendan Daly led the defense with seven stops while Joe Granahan was dominating on the line with six tackles and two sacks for the Diplomats. Michael Sullivan and Vincent Moffett along with Steve Elf all finished with five tackles, including 2.5 for a loss from Elf. Luke Foukas picked off a pass for the Diplomats to go along with two stops.
F&M returns to action on Saturday when the Diplomats travel to Muhlenberg for the Centennial Conference opener at 1:00 p.m.