Rookie Kicks Crusader Football to OT Victory

Rookie Kicks Crusader Football to OT Victory

Box Score

SELINSGROVE, Pa. – There was a lot that led up to Susquehanna's 33-30 overtime win against Wilkes on Saturday afternoon, but what will stand out most was the game-winning field off the leg of freshman kicker Spencer Hotaling (Selinsgrove, Pa./Selinsgrove Area). The rookie booted a 14-yarder that handed SU a 33-30 victory in its 2011 season opener.

The Crusaders (1-0) closed out the fourth quarter with back-to-back scores over the final three minutes, including a game-tying two-point conversation, to force overtime after trailing by 15 (30-15) with just 7:07 left.

Senior quarterback Rich Palazzi (Newfoundland, Pa./Wallenpaupack) went 36-for-51with 421 yards and four touchdowns. On the receiving end of two of those scores was senior tight end Matt Knouse (Elliottsburg, Pa./West Perry), who racked up 99 yards on 10 receptions, including the final with10 seconds left in regulation that set the team up for the game-tying two-point conversion.

Classmate and fellow wideout Mike Ritter (Selinsgrove, Pa./Selinsgrove Area) led the receiving game with an eye-opening 198 yards on 13 catches, including a long of 60, and one touchdown.

While the running game was not in midseason form, finishing with just 43 net yards, the SU defense limited Wilkes' air game to 248 yards and helped give Susquehanna a near nine-minute edge in time of possession.

The Crusaders opened the scoring with a rare safety with 6:08 on the clock to go up 2-0. Just over a minute later, Knouse caught his first touchdown reception from Palazzi, a 25-yarder that made it 9-0 after a Hotaling PAT.

Wilkes responded with nine unanswered points, knotting it at nine-all with 10:25 on the clock in the second quarter. Susquehanna was able to score the final points of the half, though, when Alex Patchin (Camp Hill, Pa./Camp Hill) caught an eight-yard pass from Palazzi for a 15-9 halftime score after Hotaling's extra point failed.

Unfortunately the Colonels' (0-1) came out of halftime fired up and put together three unanswered scoring drives, all touchdowns, to grab a 30-15 advantage with 7:07 to play.

Susquehanna did not panic, though, despite having little time with which to work. Palazzi helped engineer a 10-play, 67-yard drive that was punctuated by a Ritter nine-yard touchdown reception with 2:54 to play.

Wilkes turned the ball over on downs and SU had 1:45 to put together a potential game-tying drive. The Crusaders did just that with another 10-play drive that ended with Knouse's touchdown and Palazzi's successful two-point completion to Greg Tellish (Mount Airy, Md./South Carroll), forcing overtime.

The teams both failed to score on their first possessions of the extra session but as SU took the ball for the second time, Palazzi and the Crusaders drove 21 yards to set Hotaling up for the 14-yard field goal, which he drove through the upright for the win.

On defense, eight players had at least four tackles each, led by Jack McCarty's (Westminster, Md./South Carroll) eight (five solo). Trevor Terpening (Mount Airy, Md./South Carroll) had one interception and five solo tackles (six total).

For Wilkes, receiver Todd Eagles had 143 yards on eight catches with three touchdowns. Quarterback Alex George went 20-for-27 for 216 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for another 87 yards.

The Crusaders open Centennial Conference play next weekend with a 2 p.m. game at Johns Hopkins.