ALLENTOWN, Pa. – Another thrilling comeback was not to be for Susquehanna this week, as the Crusader football squad fell 30-14 at Muhlenberg on Saturday afternoon in a Centennial Conference matchup.
SU (3-2, 2-2) struggled all afternoon to find its rhythm on offense. The Crusaders were unable to take advantage of nine Mules penalties (87 yards) and had the ball for only 22:27 minutes and 53 plays to Muhlenberg’s 89.
After holding the ball for only 8:30 in the first half and giving up 27 points, Susquehanna’s defense limited Muhlenberg (3-2, 2-2) to only three second-half points and 151 yards. Unlike earlier games this season, however, the SU offense never put together the scoring drives it needed to mount the comeback.
Greg Tellish (Mount Airy, Md./South Carroll) accounted for SU’s two touchdowns. He finished the afternoon with 79 yards on six carries. Senior signal-caller Rich Palazzi (Newfoundland, Pa./Wallenpaupack) went 15-for-30 for 130 yards and three interceptions.
The Crusaders were without the services of all-league receiver Mike Ritter (Selinsgrove, Pa./Selinsgrove Area) for the game which was reflected in the team’s 129 receiving yards on the afternoon, including only 15 in the first half.
Defensively, Bill Mancini (Malvern, Pa./St. Joseph’s Prep) had a standout game with six tackles (five solo), 2.5 tackles for loss, one forced fumble, two pass break ups and two sacks. Rookie Jared Minori (Tyrone, Pa./Bellwood-Antis) led the unit with 10 tackles (seven solo), including one for loss
Muhlenberg’s first offensive play saw Ken Schetroma (Elysburg, Pa./Southern Columbia Area) force a fumble and even though the Mules recovered, they suffered a 12-yard loss. They rebounded quickly, though, and on third and goal from the one, Terrence Dandrige pushed his way into the end zone to put SU into an early 7-0 deficit.
Palazzi’s very first pass of the game was picked off by Mike Fiorillo but Will Dyson (Hawley, Pa./Wallenpaupack) countered with his own interception in the Susquehanna end zone to put the Crusader offense right back on the field.
That drive stalled, however, and Muhlenberg took over with roughly 7:30 left in the first quarter. The Mules ran out the clock in the quarter and opened the second quarter by capping off a seven-play, 57-yard drive with an M.J. Rus rushing touchdown on a fourth-and-goal play for a 14-0 game.
When Palazzi finally got back on the field, he promptly threw his second pick of the afternoon that Kevin Ryan returned all the way to the SU 12. That miscue cost Susquehanna three points when Muhlenberg settled for a 26-yard field goal and a 17-0 advantage.
Midway through the second quarter, SU had Muhlenberg on the ropes as the Mules were in a third-and-long situation. But quarterback Dan Deighan found Marcus Toomey for a 32-yard reception that moved the ball down to the SU 23 for a fresh set of downs. For the second-straight drive, Susquehanna’s defense was able to hold Muhlenberg to a field goal for a 20-0 score with 5:38 left in the half.
With 3:58 to play, SU had yet to get a first down before, on third-and-long, Tellish erupted for a 72-yard touchdown run that cut Muhlenberg’s lead to 13. That marked the team’s lone first down of the half.
Unfortunately the quarter wound down with yet another Mules score on a Dandridge touchdown to give his squad the 27-7 halftime edge.
Muhlenberg took over on downs at its own 46-yard line for the Mules’ first turn with the ball in the second half. Andy White (Twinsburg, Ohio/Twinsburg) was able to hand the ball right back to his offense, though with an interception with 12:25 on the clock.
Palazzi then connected with Spenser Ercole (Lewisburg, Pa./Lewisburg Area) to move the ball to the Muhlenberg 30. Four plays later, Tellish found the end zone yet again to make it 27-14 with 9:40 remaining in the third quarter.
The rest of the quarter passed without another scoring, giving SU 15 minutes to overcome a 13-point deficit.
That scoreless stretch nearly came to an end when Jesse Eggerton (Montoursville, Pa./Loyalsock Twp.) picked off Muhlenberg at the Susquehanna 15 and ran it back to the SU 43. The Crusaders caught a break when the Mules were called for roughing the passer on what would have been Palazzi’s third interception on third-and-long. Palazzi could not capitalize though, as he did wind up throwing his third pick on the next throw, ending the Crusaders drive with 7:22 to play.
The Mules were able pad their lead with a 27-yard field goal with 3:26 on the clock for a 30-14 score.
The Crusaders will enjoy a bye week before returning to action on Oct. 15 to host Moravian at 1 p.m. It marks the first of back-to-back home games for SU.
Comeback Not in the Cards for Crusaders