HUNTINGDON, Pa. – Susquehanna blew a 13 point halftime lead and gave the Eagles plenty of opportunities in the second half as the Crusaders fell to Juniata 17-16 in the Goal Post Game.
The Crusaders (6-4, 5-3) got on the scoreboard at 1:56 in the first quarter as senior quarterback Rich Palazzi (Newfoundland, Pa. / Wallenpaupack) found sophomore receiver Alex Patchin (Camp Hill, Pa. / Camp Hill) for a four yard touchdown pass to go ahead 7-0.
The score was set up by a crucial 4th and 10 pass completion from Palazzi to junior receiver Spenser Ercole (Lewisburg, Pa. / Lewisburg Area) for 25 yards. The scoring drive was 13 plays and 94 yards long and lasted 6:12.
Juniata (1-9, 1-8) was snake-bitten with penalties in the first period, seeing the yellow flag five times for 74 yards, including a pass interference call that helped set up the SU touchdown.
Freshman kicker Spencer Hotaling (Selinsgrove, Pa. / Selinsgrove Area) booted a 33 yard field goal to put the Crusaders up 10-0 at 8:03 in the second quarter.
Juniata’s Nicholas Stubbs returned the ensuing kickoff 52 yards, but the Eagles fumbled the ball on their first offensive play to give the ball right back to SU.
Patchin’s punt at 4:10 in the second quarter pinned the Eagles on their own five yard line and the Crusader defense forced a punt to give the offense one more opportunity in the first half.
Making the most of that chance, Hotaling nailed his second field goal of the first half, this time a 27 yarder, to put the Crusaders up 13-0 going into halftime.
Palazzi went 17-for-27 for 158 yards in the opening half. He found Patchin six times for 54 yards and one TD and senior running back Greg Tellish (Mount Airy, Md. / South Carroll) six times for 25 yards.
To start the second half, the Crusaders committed two critical penalties, a roughing the kicker and a pass interference call, that aided the Eagles’ Zach McCaulley rushing for a touchdown to cut the lead to 13-7 with 11:09 in the third quarter.
The Eagles scored again, this time a pass from Ward Udinski to Julian Valdiserri and the extra point gave Juniata the lead, 14-13 with 7:02 in the third.
Juniata caught the Crusaders off guard as they recovered an onsides kick to regain the ball on the ensuing kickoff but the Eagles couldn’t capitalize and turned the ball over on downs.
Palazzi was picked off by Juniata’s Andrew Masullo who returned it 23 yards to give the Eagles the ball to start the fourth quarter.
At 8:25 in the fourth, Hotaling missed a 31 yard field goal attempt wide right.
But at 2:09 in the fourth quarter, he redeemed himself with a 25 yarder to give the Crusaders the lead 16-14.
With 1:05 remaining and on fourth-and-ten, Udinski found a streaking De’Sean Popley who came down with the ball to give the Eagles the ball at the three yard line.
On fourth and goal with 5.8 seconds remaining, Juniata’s Scott Andrews nailed an 18 yard field goal.
The Crusaders attempted to set up a miracle play on the kickoff return, but this dissolved as a lateral sailed out of bounds as the clock expired.
Tellish carried 23 times for 37 yards. He finished the season with 942 rushing yards, which places him at ninth all-time in SU single season history.
Palazzi went 22 of 40 and recorded 229 passing yards in the season finale, ranking him third in Crusader history with 2,252 yards passing in a single season and second all-time with 7,687 yards in his career.
On defense, senior Trevor Terpening (Mount Airy, Md. / South Carroll) ended his career with 10 tackles.
Juniors Aaron Inch (Selinsgrove, Pa. / Line Mountain / Delaware Valley) recorded nine tackles, Ken Schetroma (Elysburg, Pa. / Southern Columbia Area) had eight stops and sophomore Bill Mancini (Malvern, Pa. / St. Joseph’s Prep.) recorded six tackles.