SELINSGROVE, Pa. – After rebounding from what had been a 12-0 deficit, the Susquehanna football team put up 24 unanswered points but failed to hold on to its lead against Dickinson, ultimately falling 28-24 on Saturday afternoon at Lopardo Stadium.
The Crusaders (1-6, 1-6) put themselves in an early, 12-0 hole after just over a quarter of play, but a 24-0 run allowed them to double-up Dickinson’s earlier 12-point lead. Unfortunately, the Red Devils (2-4, 2-3) capitalized on several costly SU miscues to put together a 16-point fourth quarter and steal the road win.
Junior quarterback Rich Palazzi (Newfoundland, Pa./Wallenpaupack) started out strong but it was a late, fourth-quarter interception that sealed the win for Dickinson. Palazzi finished the afternoon 17-for-29 for 230 yards but also tossed three picks, all of which came in that costly fourth quarter.
Palazzi had a full-strength Mike Ritter (Selinsgrove, Pa./Selinsgrove Area) back on the field after the split end played last week at less than 100 percent. The duo connected 10 times as Ritter racked up 142 yards and a touchdown, one of which was a highlight-reel grab that cut Dickinson’s lead to two (12-10) late in the first half.
On the ground, Greg Tellish (Mount Airy, Md./South Carroll) got the bulk of the carries, rushing 35 times for 163 yards and one touchdown. Backfield mate Connor McGrath (Sparta, N.J./Pope John XXIII Regional) finished with 66 yards on eight carries.
The Red Devils opened the game by scoring on their first possession, a 42-yard field goal off the foot of Gordon Craig with 10:54 on the clock.
Meanwhile, the Crusaders’ first two offensive drives stalled and on Dickinson’s second possession, the Red Devils capped off a six-play, 69-yard drive with an 11-yard touchdown rush by Tim Smith. Fortunately for SU, the extra kick failed, keeping it a 12-0 score.
The tide began turn in Susquehanna’s favor early in the second quarter. The Crusaders strung together a nearly seven-minute, 15-play drive the featured seven rushes by Tellish and ended in a 32-yard Bobby Eppleman (Chester Springs, Pa./Great Valley) field goal with 7:33 remaining in the half.
SU made it back-to-back scoring possessions when, just four minutes later, Palazzi connected with Ritter, who leaped over the Dickinson defender in the right corner of the endzone to bring down a 20-yard touchdown reception and quickly make it a two-point game (12-10) following Eppleman’s PAT.
That remained the score at the half but Susquehanna picked up right where it left off to open the second half. This time it was Tellish who found the endzone for SU, rushing for five yards to cap off a 91-yard scoring drive.
The Crusaders defense forced a three-and-out by Dickinson on its ensuing possession, putting the SU offense right back on the field.
An 18-yard rush by Tellish on second-and one put Susquehanna deep into Dickinson territory. On the next play, McGrath fumbled the ball in the Red Devils endzone, but fortunately for SU, teammate Joe Oldziejewski (Wilkes Barre, Pa./Grand Army of the Republic Memorial) was there to recover it for the Susquehanna touchdown that made it 24-12 after a two-point conversion from Palazzi to Ritter.
The end of the third quarter came and went with SU still holding a 24-12 edge but the fourth quarter was when the momentum shifted back to Dickinson.
Dickinson’s late third quarter drive carried over into the fourth quarter and resulted in another Craig field goal, this time from 39 yards out to make it 24-15.
Palazzi’s first interception of the afternoon quickly gave the ball back to Dickinson and Red Devils quarterback Jordan Kaufman helped engineer an efficient drive. His team started on the SU 44 and three passes later, his toss to Craig Helfer resulted in an eight-yard touchdown that cut the lead to two (24-22).
For the second-straight possession, Palazzi squashed a potential Crusaders drive with another pick. Fortunately, SU’s Will Dyson (Hawley, Pa./Wallenpaupack) countered with one of his, as he intercepted Kaufman on the Susquehanna seven.
The Crusaders offense did nothing to capitalize on that interception, however, as four plays later their defense was back to two (24-22).
Kaufman again wasted no time in putting more points on the board, as on the second play of the drive, he connected with Smith for a 45-yard touchdown reception that put his squad ahead 28-24 with 4:49 seconds on the clock.
Susquehanna had time for one final drive. Starting on their own 30-yard line, Palazzi and the Crusaders worked their way into Red Devils territory thanks in part to an 11-yard rush by Tellish. Palazzi recovered from a sack to find Ritter on back-to-back plays and move the ball to the 24. Unfortunately, interceptions continued to plague the junior signal caller, who threw his third pick with 1:13 on the clock to effectively end the game.
For the SU defense, Jack McCarty (Westminster, Md./South Carroll) led the team with eight tackles while Aaron Inch (Selinsgrove, Pa./Line Mountain) had a team-best six solo tackles and finished with seven for the day. McCarty also had a tackle for loss.
- Ken Schetroma (Elysburg, Pa./Southern Columbia Area) served as honorary captain
- This marked the first meeting between the teams in 10 years and was the first-ever as conference opponents.