BY NICK GRANADOS
On a day that East Stroudsburg University honored the Athletic Hall of Fame Class of 2013, it was the current athletes that shined on Saturday at Eiler-Martin Stadium.
Sporting black alternate jerseys as part of homecomming’s “Black Out” theme, the Warriors scored early and often en route to a 52-28 win over Lockhaven during Homecoming weekend.
Gerald Van De Cruz got the scoring started just three minutes in, scoring on a 1-yard touchdown run to give ESU the early lead.
Lock Haven tied the game eight minutes later when Bald Eagles quarterback Caleb Walton hit David Cook for a 15-yard touchdown.
A 37-yard field goal from Taylor Groff put the Warriors up 10-7.
With that field goal, Groff set a new ESU record for points by a kicker, passing the previous record of 287 which was set by Mark Brubaker (who played at ESU from 2002 to 2005). Groff ended today’s game at 295 career points.
It was more ESU in the second quarter and more Gerald Van De Cruz.
The junior tailback scored his second touchdown of the game, once again from 1 yard out, to put the Warriors up by 10.
A little less than 3 minutes later, Matt Soltes threw his first touchdown pass of the game, a 30 yard completion to wide receiver Ray Dominguez, to extend the lead to 17.
Lock Haven cut the lead to 10 points with a 54-yard pass from Walton to wide receiver Jesse Hoover, but Matt Soltes connected with Robert Bleiler for a 28-yard touchdown to give the Warriors a 31-14 lead.
ESU turned a Lock Haven fumble late in the half into another touchdown pass from Matt Soltes, this time to wide receiver Tim Wilson.
With that, ESU went into halftime with a 38-14 lead.
It was a scoreless third quarter until Gerald Van De Cruz scored for ESU on another 1-yard touchdown run, his third of the game, to give the Warriors a commanding 45-14 lead.
A little over a minute later, some more history was made for ESU.
Matt Soltes connected with Robert Bleiler for a 99-yard touchdown pass, tying the school record for longest play from scrimmage.
That touchdown put the Warriors in front 52-14 and was also the final touchdown pass for Matt Soltes, who was replaced by backup Nate Daniels with 5:03 left in the third quarter.
Lock Haven scored early into the fourth quarter to make it 52-21 and then recovered the onside kick on the kickoff.
Lock Haven scored again to make it 52-28 with 2:25 left in the game, but by that point the Warriors had the game in hand and ran out the clock to come away with a 52-28 win.
Warriors QB Matt Soltes lead all passers with 462 yards and 4 touchdowns and also rushed for 74 yards.
Soltes is now sixth all-time at ESU in career total offensive yards with 6,407 yards behind Bret Comp (1989-92) who is 5th with 6,774 yards. Soltes’ 6,407 yards is also the second most in PSAC history for a player in their sophomore season.
ESU’s Robert Bleiler led all receivers with 230 yards and two touchdowns.
Bleiler tied John Kotarsky, who in 1999 had 230 yards against Mansfield, for the fourth-most yards in a single game in ESU history.
With his 99-yard touchdown reception, he also now has two of the three longest receiving plays in ESU history, the other being a 97-yard touchdown reception in the 2011 season opener against Pace.
Lock Haven’s Brandon Brader led all rushers with 121 yards, though he was kept out of the end zone.
ESU’s Gerald Van De Cruz led all rushers in touchdowns with three in the game, and was the first ESU player with three rushing touchdowns in a game since tailback Kendrick Williams scored had three rushing touchdowns against Cheyney back in 2010.
Although he was second in rushing behind Lock Haven’s Brandon Brader, Robert Healy totaled 89 yards on the day.
Healy now has 905 rushing yards this season and, with two games left, has an opportunity to complete the 7th 1,000-yard season in ESU history (and 6th by a running back).
With the win, the Warriors improved to 25-15 in homecoming games under current head coach Denny Douds.
Douds, who is in his 40th season at ESU, earned his 243rd win of his career, moving ahead of Northwest Missouri State head coach Mel Tjeerdsman for third place in all time Division II wins.
Douds was also recognized at the Alumni Awards Banquet held the previous day with ESU’s “Great Teacher Award” for his service in the classrooms at ESU.
Next week ESU will host Millersville at Eiler-Martin Stadium and Mrcyhurst the following week as they close out the season with a three game homestand.
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