LANCASTER, PA - Tailback Scott Stephen (Sr., Glen Rock, NJ/Glen Rock) carried 32 times for 125 yards with a touchdown, returned a punt for 28 yards and caught a team high three passes for 72 yards with a touchdown to earn Most Valuable Player honors as Franklin & Marshall (8-3) defeated Moravian (7-4) 37-20 to win the 2004 Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Southwest Bowl at Sponaugle-Williamson Field.
Stephen caught a 16-yard pass from quarterback Doug Hiltner (Sr., Margate, NJ/Atlantic City) with nine seconds remaining in the second quarter for a 23-7 halftime lead and added a 30 yard rush for a touchdown with 4:05 left in the third quarter to make the score 30-13 as the Diplomats claimed the third ECAC Championship in program history.
Starting quarterback Jeff Harner (So., Mohrsville, PA/Schuylkill Valley) completed seven-of-14 attempts for 135 yards with two touchdowns and Hiltner connected on nine-of-11 attempts for 97 yards with a pair of touchdowns as Franklin & Marshall racked up 232 passing yards and 185 rushing yards for 417 yards of total offense off 71 plays.
For Moravian, tailback Chris Jacoubs rushed 25 times for 170 yards with one touchdown and quarterback Jerry Venturino completed 19-of-33 attempts for 290 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
The Diplomats, who never trailed in the game, broke the game open in the second quarter with a pair of touchdowns and a 21 yard field goal by kicker Dan Eggertsson (Sr., Royal Palm, FL/Suncoast) to turn a 7-7 tie after one quarter into a 23-7 halftime lead.
Franklin & Marshall wasted little time taking the lead in the second quarter as Harner completed a 33-yard touchdown pass to Bobby Freiler (So., Orwigsburg, PA/Blue Mountain) on third-and-four on the first play of the quarter. The game remained 13-6, however, as Moravian's Nick Feo blocked Eggertsson's extra point attempt to cap a five play, 58-yard drive.
The Greyhounds attempted to respond going 45 yards on nine plays. The play of the game occurred on fourth-and-12 from the F&M 21 as Jacoubs pulled in an apparent touchdown pass from Venturino before defensive back Tim Barry (Jr., Madison, NJ/Madison) drilled the receiver in the chest to separate the ball before Jacoubs touched the ground for an incomplete pass as the Hounds turned the ball over on downs.
F&M used the breakup as inspiration as Harner connected with Stephen on first down for a 42 yard pass completion down to the Moravian 37 yard line. Stephen moved the ball to the Moravian 33 with rushes of three and one yard before Harner hit tightend Matt Mondonedo (So., Silver Spring, MD/James Hubert Blake) for a 12-yard completion to the Moravian 21. The Diplomats moved the ball on the ground on the next three downs as Harner picked up five, Stephen rushed for four and fullback Rick Dunlap (So., Boothwyn, PA/Garnet Valley) scampered six yards for a first down at the Moravian six yard line.
However, the Greyhounds defense held as Stephen rushed for no gain on second down before breaking through the line to move the ball to the one-yard line. On third down, Harner fumbled at the four-yard line where Stephen fell on the loose ball to bring up fourth-and-goal. Eggertsson hit the chip-shot 21-yard field goal for a 16-7 lead with 4:49 left in the first half to cap an 11 play, 75-yard drive.
Following a three-and-out by Moravian, F&M took possession of the ball at its own 38 yard line behind the leadership of Hiltner who moved the ball down to the Moravian 37 with less than 20 seconds left in the half. On third-and-10, Hiltner connected with Freiler who slid for the catch at the 31 before being hit to bring out a personal foul flag to move the ball down to the 16-yard line. On first-and-10, Hiltner found Stephen down the right sideline for a 16 yard touchdown pass with nine seconds remaining in the half to cap a nine play, 62 yard drive for a 16 point halftime lead as Eggertsson tacked on the extra point.
Moravian attempted to claw its way back into the game on the opening drive of the third quarter as Venturino hit Shawn Martell for a 36 yard gain on first down and Jacoubs carried four times for 14 yards to place the ball on the F&M 14. On second-and-eight, Venturino found Ben Hawkins in the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown pass to close to within 23-13. Needing points to close in on F&M, the Greyhounds elected to go for the two-point conversion, but Ryan Sychterz (Jr., Sinking Spring, PA/Holy Name) intercepted the pass attempt in the end zone to hold onto the 10-point lead.
F&M caught a break on their next drive as Eggertsson punted to the Moravian 28 yard line as the ball glanced off Martell and rolled to the 10 yard line where John Weber (Fr., Harrison, NY/Rye Country Day) corralled the ball to set F&M up deep in Greyhounds' territory.
However, the Hounds recovered the ball two plays later as Bill Skriletz stripped Stephen at the 10-yard line before Clifford Garr recovered the loose ball at the 16-yard line.
Moravian could not cash in on the turnover as John McLain punted 42 yards to the F&M 41 to set F&M up in solid field position.
The Diplomats could not cash in as Israel Aguila intercepted Harner at the Moravian 7 yard line on first-and-10 from the Moravian 28. Franklin & Marshall's defense held, however, as Joe LoCastro (Jr., Cherry Hill, NJ/Camden Catholic) sacked Venturino for a nine yard loss on second-and-three to force the Hounds to punt where Donofrio returned the kick 23 yards out to the Moravian 33 yard line.
On first down, Stephen carried for a three-yard gain before breaking loose on second-and-seven for a 30 yard touchdown run to push the lead out to 30-13 with 4:05 remaining in the quarter.
Moravian responded on the next possession as Jacoubs broke the plain on a four yard run to cap an eight play, 69 yard drive to pull to within 30-20 with 47 seconds left in the third quarter.
Following a possession by F&M, Moravian attempted to pull to within three points starting on their own 21-yard line. Needing yardage, the Greyhounds found Diplomats' defenders as Franklin & Marshall held Moravian to -1 yard off three plays.
John McLain punted the ball away to the F&M 37 where Stephen collected the kick and returned it 28 yards to the Moravian 35 yard line to set the offense up in Hounds' territory.
Stephen and Harner did the rest as the senior tailback carried for a 13-yard gain to the 22-yard line on second down and Harner hit wide receiver Chris Wagner (Fr., Media, PA/Penncrest) for a 15 yard gain down to the Moravian 7 for a first down. On first-and-goal, Harner converted in the red zone connecting with Mondonedo for a seven yard TD for the 37-20 final score with 10:51 left on the game clock.
Overall, the game did not appear to be destined for a 17 point victory in the first quarter as neither team scored until the 3:18 mark as Hiltner entered the game to lead F&M 79 yards on 10 plays before connecting with Donofrio on a 23 yard touchdown.
Moravian responded less than two minutes later as Venturino and Jed Warsager connected for a 52-yard touchdown pass to knot the game at 7-7 with 1:25 left in the opening quarter.
In receiving, Stephen led the way with three catches for 72 yards with a touchdown, while Freiler pulled in three for 51 with a TD and Donofrio grabbed three for 37 yards with a TD. Wagner added three catches for 37 yards, Mondonedo corralled two for 19 yards, Derek Boyce (Jr., Lancaster, PA/Lampeter-Strasburg) caught one for 14 yards and Dunlap pulled on one for two yards as F&M finished with 16 receptions for 232 yards as the squad tied the season high of four touchdown receptions set in a 41-21 win at Oberlin.
Defensively, linebacker George Farrell (Fr., Hatfield, PA/North Penn) had a season high 16 tackles (six solo, 10 assist), including three tackles-for-loss of seven yards, to lead the effort as the Diplomats held the Greyhounds to 143 rushing yards and 433 yards of total offense.
Overall, Stephen was the story of the day as he moved into second place in single season rushes (236) and raised his career numbers to 651 carries for 2,356 yards as he ranks second in both categories in the history of Franklin & Marshall College as he is only the second player to reach 2,000 rushing yards.
In addition, the Diplomats reset added to their school record passing offense as F&M finishes the season with 2,574 yards through the air to erase the previous mark of 2,189 yards held by the 1995 team.
The 2004 Centennial Conference co-champions with Muhlenberg, McDaniel, Johns Hopkins and Dickinson, Franklin & Marshall's bid in the ECAC playoffs marked the fifth postseason game and ECAC berth in school history. Further, the game marked the second time F&M has hosted an ECAC game. In 1986, F&M fell at Wagner 40-28 in the first postseason game in program history. The next year the Diplomats knocked off Kean 21-0 in Lancaster for the program's first postseason win. Franklin & Marshall dropped St. Johns 31-18 on the road in 1989 for its second ECAC victory behind an MVP performance by wide receiver Dale Amos '90 before falling to the United States Merchant Marine Academy 20-0 at Robeson Stadium in East Orange, New Jersey in 1996.
The Centennial Conference and ECAC Southwest Championships cap off a turnaround season for the Diplomats as F&M finished with eight wins in a season for the first time since 1996 (9-2), won their first Centennial Conference title since 1995 (7-3), advanced to the postseason for the first time since 1996 as F&M previously went 0-10 (2000), 1-9 (2001), 4-6 (2002) and 4-6 (2003) over the last four seasons.
Historically, Moravian is now 1-11 all-time against the Diplomats in Lancaster as Franklin & Marshall was victorious in 1932 (21-7 W), 1933 (39-0 W), 1934 (58-0 W), 1935 (28-0 W), 1972 (24-22 W), 1974 (40-28 W), 1976 (38-13 W), 1978 (18-17 W), 1980 (28-0 W) and 1982 (24-6 W) before dropping the two teams last meeting in Lancaster during the 1991 season (7-6 L).