After jumping out to a 30-9 lead midway through the third quarter, visiting California (Pa.) held on to beat Edinboro in a 37-30 battle to open up PSAC West play on Saturday afternoon at Sox Harrison Stadium.
For the second straight week, Vulcans junior defensive back Aaron Terry sealed the win for Cal (Pa.) (3-1, 1-0 PSAC) on an interception at the Vulcan’s three-yard line with under five minutes remaining.
Unable to get back in scoring position with one last offensive trip after a stop by the defense, Edinboro (0-4, 0-1) would run out of time after facing double-digit deficits on three separate occasions and a 21-point second half hole at one time.
“I thought we really grew up,” head coach Scott Browning said after the game. “I thought we played hard together, we fought, and I thought we supported each other. I thought we got better. If we continue to play the way we played today, with the way we prepared this week, we continue to do that the rest of this football season, we’ll still have a chance to have a good football team.”
Despite throwing the red zone interception, sophomore quarterback Jake Sisson completed 22 of his 32 passes while putting up career highs in yards passing (281) and touchdown passes (four).
“He executed the offense, slowed everyone down, and got in the huddle,” redshirt junior receiver Darren Massey said about Sisson. “He spoke to us a few times like ‘Everyone calm down, we’re going to get this win’. He was a big, key role in this game today.”
After a partially blocked punt set up the Vulcans at Edinboro’s 30 yard line, California (Pa.) took just six plays to find the end zone on its first drive of the game by way of a John Franklin III touchdown run from one yard out.
A fumble by Boro tailback Jamaal Eveillard on the next possession allowed Cal to begin its second drive of the afternoon at the Scots’ 45. Franklin III capped off a nine-play scoring drive with another 1-yard touchdown run.
“Their offensive line is legit,” Browning said of Cal (Pa.). “They don’t have one weak spot. The tailback is legit. I think our defense did a pretty darn good job today.”
On the second play of Cal (Pa.)’s next drive, fifth-year senior defensive end Domenic Principale sacked Vulcan quarterback James Harris in the end zone for a safety and Edinboro’s first points of the game.
Although each quarterback was limited to less than 50 yards passing in the first half, Edinboro exceeded its season average in rushing (96 yards per game) with 102 yards through two quarters.
“I thought the passing attack was good, but I thought what made the passing attack was the running attack,” Browning said. “I think we ran the football early. We probably threw the ball in the second half a little bit more than we wanted to, but when you’re down by 21, you’re kind of stuck and forced to do some things you’re not crazy about.”
California hit the air to open the second half as Harris hit both Garry Brown and Luke Smorey on touchdown passes to build the lead to 21 with just under seven minutes left in the third quarter.
“A huge thing was communication,” Massey said about the increased offensive production.
“We worked on that all week. All week we were talking about, we need to chatter with each other, we need to chatter.”
Sisson found Massey in the end zone on each of the next two drives to bring Edinboro within one touchdown heading into the fourth quarter. “I thought he really got off to a poor start,” Browning said of Sisson.
“I thought he missed three open receivers early. I was scared to death and he just really turned it on. I thought he played really well. He really competed.”
The Vulcans responded with an 11-play, 80-yard drive that took nearly five minutes off the clock as John Franklin III found the end zone from five yards out to put Cal back up 14 in the early fourth quarter.
Three plays later, Sisson struck again, this time with a 57-yard touchdown pass to redshirt sophomore Alex Caratelli. Caratelli, a Robert Morris transfer, set career highs with six receptions and 147 yards.
“I was waiting for him,” Massey said. “I knew he had it in him; I was just waiting for it. He’s a tremendous player. He has nice clicking speed. He’s really starting to put it together.”
Edinboro visits Indiana (Pa.) on Saturday for the Crimson Hawks’ homecoming game. Kickoff is slated for 2 p.m.
Mike Fenner is a Staff Writer for The Spectator.