By Ronald Hanaki
It was a Halloween treat for the Warriors as ESU’s football team came from behind to foil Bloomsburg’s hopes for a third straight PSAC East title with a late fourth quarter touchdown and two-point conversion to beat the Huskies 35-34 at Eiler-Martin Stadium last Saturday.
Trailing by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, ESU junior safety Jimmy Verzicco forced Bloomsburg junior running back Lawrence Elliott, Jr. to fumble the ball.
ESU redshirt senior line-backer Kaje Cowans recovered the fumble, and ESU redshirt senior quarterback Matt Soltes finished a 4-play, 30-yard drive with a 7-yard touchdown run to cut the Huskies’ lead to one touchdown with 10:32 left in the game.
ESU’s defense then stepped up in the fourth quarter by forcing Bloomsburg to go three-and-out twice.
After stopping the Huskies at their own 10-yard line, ESU senior cornerback Teron Dobbs returned a short Huskie punt to the Bloomsburg 36-yard line.
The Warriors took advantage of the short field and scored on a 3-yard touchdown plunge by redshirt senior tailback Gerald Van De Cruz to cut Bloomsburg’s lead down to one point with 1:10 left in the game.
With not much to lose, ESU’s coaching staff then made the gutsy decision to eschew overtime and go for the two-point conversion in order to win the game in regulation.
In a play reminiscent of “The Catch,” Soltes rolled right and was cool as the other side of the pillow under pressure as he threw the ball high up over the corner of the end zone.
After being held in check for most of the game, redshirt senior wide receiver Jon Schnaars made like Dwight Clark and jumped up and caught the ball at its highest point to complete the two-point conversion and an improbable fourth quarter comeback.
With the win, ESU broke a nine-game losing streak to Bloomsburg for its first win over the Huskies since 2005.
It was a rocky start for the Warriors. On ESU’s first possession, Soltes threw an interception that led to a Bloomsburg touchdown.
This was a bad omen for the Warriors because Bloomsburg head coach Paul Darragh was 15-0 when his team scored first.
On ESU’s next possession, the Warriors couldn’t convert on a fourth-and-four from the Bloomsburg 24-yard line and turned the ball over on downs.
Bloomsburg redshirt senior quarterback Tim Kelly would cap off a 10-play, 76-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run to put the Huskies ahead 14-0 in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, the Warriors would put together a 10-play, 61-yard drive that resulted in a Nicolas Ruiz field goal. At 14-3, ESU was finally on the scoreboard.
The two teams would then exchange touchdowns. On the ensuing possession, Bloomsburg’s Lawrence Elliott, Jr. scored on a 1-yard touchdown run.
ESU would answer with a 1-yard touchdown run from tail-back Gerald Van De Cruz. ESU trailed the Huskies 21-10.
Bloomsburg redshirt freshman Lamont Veal returned ESU’s kickoff to the Bloomsburg 40-yard line, and the Huskies would use its favorable starting field position to add a field goal to close the second quarter. The Huskies now led the Warriors 24-10 at halftime.
Huskie head coach Paul Darragh’s teams were 20-0 when they led at halftime, but the momentum seemed to shift when ESU’s Teron Dobbs returned a Bloomsburg punt 64 yards for a touchdown to cut Bloomsburg’s lead down to seven points. The score was now 24-17 Bloomsburg.
That hope would prove fleeting as Bloomsburg needed only two plays to answer with another touchdown.
Bloomsburg’s Lawrence Elliott, Jr. had a career day running the football, and one of his highlights was a 61-yard touchdown run that put the Huskies ahead again by two touchdowns. Bloomsburg then led the Warriors 31-17.
The two teams would then exchange field goals to end the third quarter with the score 34-20 in favor of the Huskies.As it turned out, all that scoring from the first three quarters was just setting the table for ESU’s dramatic fourth quarter comeback win.
After being bottled up for the first three quarters, ESU’s Megatron Jon Schnaars transformed himself to the prime time player that he is with 5 catches for 99 yards in the fourth quarter alone. In total, Schnaars had 7 receptions for 125 yards.
ESU redshirt junior tailback Robert Healy carried the ball 27 times for 131 yards. He also had three receptions for 24 yards. Healy now has 2,644 career rushing yards, which is the new school record.
In the loss, Bloomsburg’s Lawrence Elliott, Jr. had 28 carries for a career-high 234 yards and three touchdowns, but his one fumble led to a fourth quarter ESU touchdown.
Nevertheless, Elliott, Jr. was named PSAC Eastern Division Offensive Athlete of the Week for his performance last Saturday.
ESU (5-2, 4-2) will face West Chester (6-3, 5-1) at Farrell Stadium in West Chester at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
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