Once down 42-20 in the fourth quarter, the Fighting Scots nearly pulled off a furious rally in the final stanza that saw Edinboro come up with 22 point.
And the Scots would even have multiple chances to take the ball back from their local rival, Gannon, at the end of the 10th edition of the backyard brawl.
Following Edinboro’s sixth touchdown on a rainy and windy night in Erie, redshirt sophomore kicker Austin Reese’s well executed onside kick landed in the hands of Gannon senior running back Brock Jones.
On the Golden Knights’ first offensive snap of their final drive, Jones (29 carries, 134 yards rushing) would run for 19 yards into the Boro secondary before freshman defensive back Zuril Hendrick punched the ball loose, creating a fumble.
Gannon’s Tyler Johnson recovered. Playing with a desperate set of cards, the defense stopped Jones on three straight runs to set up a fourth down and 12 at the Boro 25 with the Scots set to exhaust its final timeout with less than 30 seconds remaining in the one score game.
Instead, freshman cornerback Mitch Thomas’ 15-yard personal foul penalty, which represented one of five personal foul penalties on the evening for Edinboro, would grant Gannon an automatic first down.
The Golden Knights wouldn’t need another snap as they would survive a thriller that featured over 1,000 yards of offense; Jones breaking a program record with five total touchdowns and tying a school-high mark with four rushing scores; and a series record 91 points scored in Gannon’s third straight win in the series.
“It’s unacceptable,” head coach Scott Browning said of the final penalty after the game. “It’s very selfish and we’re not going to put up with it. We need to get it corrected, because it’s controllable.”
Edinboro (0-7, 0-4 PSAC West) faced multiple three-score deficits to Gannon (5-2, 2-2) throughout the game before creating a one score game on two occasions late in the game at McConnell Family Stadium in Erie.
“We brought sixty guys up here tonight and we didn’t have one guy quit and think that we couldn’t come back and win the damn football game,” Browning said. “I couldn’t be more proud of our football team.”
Entering the final frame facing a 22-point hole, the Fighting Scots would need a career night from sophomore quarterback Jake Sisson and they got it.
Sisson finished the night completing 22-of-40 passes for a career-best 364 yards, a career high five touchdown passes (tying a school record), while adding a rushing score.
This came after completing the longest passing play and registering the longest offensive play of the season for Edinboro in the first half on a 75-yard touchdown toss to redshirt sophomore receiver Alex Caratelli.
“He picked it up,” Caratelli said. “He did really well and he did all we could ask. A couple things went wrong, but he did all he could.”
Using a nearly five minute drive to go 95 yards on 12 plays, the Scots put together the first of its three scores in the fourth quarter through the air.
After nearly scoring on both first and second down on the Gannon doorstep, Sisson fired a pass into the middle of the end zone for redshirt junior receiver Darren Massey on a do or die fourth and goal from the Knights’ three.
Edinboro’s ability to convert all three of its fourth down chances proved to be a key area in the contest as two of them resulted in touchdown scores.
“It means everything,” Caratelli said of the successful conversions. “We’ve got to keep our defense off the field and let them get some air. It keeps our momentum going. If it’s third down, we don’t get it, we’re kind of down, but fourth down, we get it, it just keeps the drive going.”
Following a three-and-out from the Boro defense that yielded just seven yards, Gannon sophomore punter Karch Holland netted just a 20-yard punt to set up the Scots at the 50.
From there, Edinboro took just over two minutes and scored on a 5-play drive where Sisson completed three of his four passes to start the possession. The Jamestown, New York native then took the ball himself and ran for a four yard touchdown scamper on third and goal from the four yard line.
Sisson then added Edinboro’s two-point conversion as he rolled right and extended the ball to successfully reach for the front right pylon as the game was suddenly a 42-35 affair with over seven minutes remaining.
“I just thought guys stepped up and made plays,” Browning said. “I felt really good about whatever we called and I thought we had a great opportunity that it was going to work, because we were blocking and we were doing everything we needed to do.”
Gannon would counter with an 18- yard touchdown pass from redshirt senior quarterback Liam Nadler (20-of-34 for 321 yards, three touchdown passes) to senior Jesstin Hamm for his 11th touchdown grab of the year, with a little over four minutes left in the game to make it a two-score contest.
Not having much time to operate, the Scots marched down the field in a little over two minutes to throw one final punch.
With 1:51 remaining and another fourth down facing Edinboro’s jump-started offense, Sisson came through on a 22-yard touchdown pass to Caratelli.
“It meant so much to us,” Caratelli said. “We were down 14 with a minute left and we needed that a lot. Sisson did a great job letting me go up for it. Our line held up and everything. It was just a nice ball.”
Edinboro falls to 0-7 for the first time since 1940 and will face the Mercyhurst Lakers tonight at 6 p.m. at Sox Harrison Stadium.
Mike Fenner is a Staff Writer for The Spectator.