Shippensburg University’s football team wrapped up the 2017 regular season in convincing fashion with a 51-13 thrashing of the Griffins of Seton Hill University on Saturday in a Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference crossover game at Seth Grove Stadium.
The Red Raiders (10-1, 6-1 PSAC East) totaled more than 500 yards of total offense for the third time this season, including 326 rushing yards. Both senior running back Cole Chiappialle and graduate Colin McDermott rushed for more than 100 yards.
SU celebrated its 12 seniors in style, as senior quarterback Ryan Zapoticky threw for 256 yards on 19-of-26 passing with three touchdowns. Zapoticky added another two scores on the ground. Senior fullback Mike Cassidy scored his first collegiate touchdown in the win.
“Senior Day is a special day and a special memory,” SU head coach Mark Maciejewski said. “These guys have done an absolute tremendous job for this family and my hat goes off for them. It’s an emotional day for the guys and they just handle themselves and do such a great job. I’m so proud of them.”
SU wasted no time mounting an insurmountable lead, as Zapoticky threw touchdowns to wide receiver Charles Headen III and fullback Luke Durkin, while also adding a score with his legs to give the Red Raiders a 20-0 lead at the break.
“We just kept focused and kept to the game plan,” Zapoticky said. “The running game was hitting and the pass game will complement that. We just did a great job overall on offense.”
The SU rushing attack proved to be too much for the Griffins to handle, as the Red Raiders punished Seton Hill with big runs all day, including 11 rushes of 10 or more yards. The ground game wore out one of the PSAC’s weaker teams, as Zapoticky ran for an 18-yard score and threw a 14-yard touchdown to pass to Kyle Haines to increase the lead. Haines was SU’s leading receiver on the day, catching seven passes for 69 yards and the score.
“Colin and I have been a 1-2 punch all year and Marcus Lominy got in there as well,” Chiappialle said. “Offensively running the ball is what we do. It’s our bread and butter and Zap did what he does. We knew they’d play tough, but they couldn’t compete with us.”
The Red Raiders pushed their lead to 44-0 with 12:51 left to play after a rushing touchdown by Chase Yocum. Cassidy’s 2-yard plunge with 4:54 remaining sealed the deal, and SU improved to 10-1 for just the fifth time in school history.
“It’s very special. It’s a goal and our guys have worked very hard to get to that goal,” Maciejewski said. “I’ve been involved in four of the five, whether as a player or a coach, and I’m pretty proud of that aspect of it. These guys really do a great job and it’s something that they really wanted.”
SU’s defense also refused to give an inch, as the Red Raiders held Seton Hill to just 117 yards of total offense until the Griffins’ final two possessions. Seton Hill came into the game boasting one of the best passing offenses in the PSAC, and it was neutralized in large part to a stout defensive line and a strong secondary that refused to allow the Griffins to get any sort of momentum.
SU senior defensive back Chavez Cheatham intercepted a pass in the game — the eighth of his career, while Josh Lister recorded his first collegiate sack and Tig Spinelli recorded a career-high four tackles for a loss.
“They just work hard,” Maciejewski said. “They’re just blue collar workers out there giving everything they’ve got every play. To keep them scoreless for three quarters was great.”
With the win, SU advances to the NCAA Division II playoffs and will face the Golden Rams of West Chester University in a rematch of an epic clash at Seth Grove Stadium earlier this season. The Red Raiders only loss this season came in that 37-27 game on Oct. 7.
Maciejewski alluded to what it means to the program to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
“It’s special,” Maciejewski said. “I tell our guys they’re making memories every day. We’re going to treat it with respect and work really hard to make sure that we do our part in this.”
Zapoticky also described the feeling of finally getting to reach the playoffs in his senior season.
“I haven’t been able to get to the playoffs in my time as a Red Raider, so to be able to get there is a huge deal,” Zapoticky said.
SU will host the Golden Rams at Seth Grove Stadium on Saturday. Kickoff will be at noon.