Fresh off a dominant 41-7 victory over American International, the Shippensburg University football team hopes to escape some déjà vu’ Saturday when it travels to Gannon University to face the Golden Knights.
The Red Raiders started off 2016 with a victory over American International, before falling at home against the Golden Knights. Shippensburg started the game with a 17-0 lead behind rushing touchdowns from Cole Chiappialle and Justin Pyle, as well as a 43-yard field goal by Billy Deane after a Gannon turnover.
Gannon responded in a big way after the field goal, returning the ensuing kickoff 83 yards to the Red Raider 17-yard line, where Gannon later scored on a nine-yard touchdown pass by Zach Phillips to Eli Quinter to cut the lead to 10.
SU sputtered offensively on the next drive, but a great punt by Deane put the Golden Knights in terrible field position, starting their next possession from their own 1-yard line. The field position proved to not be costly however, as Gannon punched the ball into the end zone on an eight-yard rushing touchdown by Tyler Johnson to cap off a 14-play, 99-yard drive to bring Gannon within three.
SU could not muster much in the second half and Gannon came away with the win, 24-20. SU head coach Mark Maciejewski hopes that the team can use last season’s loss as motivation for this week.
“It tells us we need to play four quarters of football, or we’re going to find ourselves in trouble,” Maciejewski said.
The Red Raiders however, have a lot to be proud of after last week’s win against American International. Ryan Zapoticky looked extremely sharp, completing 28-of-46 passes for 342 yards and three touchdowns and the defense had standout performances by linebacker Tig Spinelli and safeties J.T. Hopple and Dennis Robinson.
With the dominant offensive attack, Maciejewski hopes that the team can carry the momentum into this week, while also fixing the mistakes it made last week.
“We’re going to take a few things away from the game. First, our guys played really hard and with a lot of passion and emotion, and they played as a family, which was encouraging to see,” Maciejewski said. “We had a lot of mistakes out there, but we had a lot of young guys out there so that’s going to happen. Right now we need to have our veterans lead the way and let our young guys develop.”
SU’s young talent will be put to the test early and often this week, as Gannon comes in after a 55-22 thrashing of Southern Connecticut State University. The Golden Knights ran the ball efficiently last week, and Gannon running back Marc Jones impressed in his first career start, rushing for 201 yards and three touchdowns.
Maciejewski stressed the importance of SU stopping Jones and the scrambling ability of Phillips in the zone-read.
“They ran the ball on us last year. Not only the running back is a threat, but the quarterback is a threat also,” Maciejewski said. “We have to do an excellent job of stopping the run and the zone read that they like to run. When they run their quarterback they have an extra guy so we need to make sure we are flying around.”
With a defense up to the challenge, the Red Raiders will head to Gannon, looking to avenge last season’s loss. Kickoff is scheduled for 12 p.m. at Gannon.