Although the season did not necessarily go as planned, the Shippensburg University football team can rest its hat on the fact that it clinched its eighth-consecutive winning season with a complete-game victory over Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) West opponent Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP), 45–21.
The win over IUP was SU’s first since 1988, and every unit needed to perform at its best for the Raiders to pull off the win. SU had two interceptions returned for touchdowns in the game — one from senior linebacker Tyler Emge and the other from redshirt-junior cornerback John Chaney III.
The Red Raiders almost gave up a big halftime lead, as the Crimson Hawks were able to claw their way back from a 28–7 deficit to within seven points early in the fourth quarter.
After giving up two consecutive scoring drives, SU came back to lead a nearly six-minute drive that ended with a field goal from freshman kicker David Shank to bring the score to 31–21. On the following drive for IUP, Chaney grabbed his 30-yard touchdown on an interception to put the game out of reach for good, sealing the long-awaited victory.
The SU defense had one of its best games of the season, limiting IUP quarterback Lenny Williams to 177 yards on only eight completions and forcing three interceptions. The unit also limited a potent IUP running game to just 96 yards on 40 carries.
The two pick-sixes were at either end of the game, as Emge’s interception came on the first drive of the game and Chaney grabbed his with less than five minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
Redshirt-freshman quarterback Brycen Mussina did not have his best game of the season, but he did enough to help the Raiders clinch the win. He finished with 207 yards on 14 completions with one touchdown, but threw two interceptions. Mussina finished his debut campaign with some of the best numbers in the SU football program’s history.
His 3,376 total passing yards and 32 touchdown passes are both good enough for third on SU’s all-time list in a single season. Mussina finished as the top passer in the PSAC and was sixth in all of Division II football.
Since Mussina did not have the best day, it is reasonable to assume that the SU receivers did not have explosive games as well. Redshirt-junior phenom Josh Gontarek ended his season with an 81-yard performance to put him at just shy of 1,100 yards with 1,097.
He finished his debut season for the Red Raiders with nine touchdowns and led the team in both categories, edging out redshirt-sophomore Winston Eubanks, who had 755 yards and eight touchdowns.
Senior defensive lineman Dakota Thompson was constantly pressuring Williams in the IUP backfield, finishing with three and a half sacks. He finishes his collegiate career with 26 sacks, which is good enough for third in SU history.
Fellow senior Richard Nase fell just shy of tying former defensive end Jake Metz’s school record, ending his career with 29 sacks for second on the all-time list.
Senior quarterback Chase Yocum went out on a high note, grabbing two more rushing scores in his final game. Yocum entered Red Raider lore last week when he passed former starting quarterback Ryan Zapoticky’s school record for rushing yards by a quarterback.
Yocum finished with 1,312 total yards in his career. His touchdowns against IUP moved him up to 10 on the season — far and away the leader for the Red Raiders on the year (the next closest was Sirb with four).
SU could ask for no better way to end the season than ending the 30-year drought against IUP and lifting the team to an overall 6–5 record.
Coach Mark “Mac” Maciejewski was proud of the team in the win and gave a lot of credit to the seniors who persevered through a rocky season to end it with an impressive victory.
The sky is the limit for the Red Raiders next season, as they will look to build on the growth of Mussina and his rapport with Gontarek and Eubanks, while the defense will need to replace many key graduating players like Thompson, Emge and Nase.
Tryouts for the squad will begin at the beginning of next semester, starting on Jan. 31. Team hopefuls will need to fill out an online form in order to start the process before the Jan. 22 deadline.
The form can be found on the athletics website at shipraiders.com.