Coaching in his 500th college football game overall and leading the East Stroudsburg program in their 800th game, Warriors head coach Denny Douds celebrated a convincing 56-12 win over visiting Edinboro (0-3) on Saturday afternoon at Greogry-Douds Field at EilerMartin Stadium.
Redshirt-senior quarterback and two-time Harlon Hill award candidate Matt Soltes led the way for the Warriors (1-2), completing 21-of-31 passes for 438 yards and five touchdowns against a young Fighting Scots defense.
“Their offense had a quarterback, that we thought coming in, maybe he was banged up a little bit,” head coach Scott Browning said. “He came in and I think with the weather now, he seemed really healthy. He throws the ball extremely well and reads defenses extremely well. He’s got good receivers and they got people open and he hit them.”
Starting with the ball to begin the contest, a high shotgun snap exchange between center John Appice and Soltes on just the second play from scrimmage resulted in a lost fumble deep in ESU’s own territory. Edinboro, however, would give the ball right back despite starting at the Warriors’ 17-yard line as tailback Cory Bell fumbled a toss sweep on the very next play.
From there, the Warriors found their rhythm offensively as they grinded out a 15-play, 82-yard drive that exhausted over six minutes of time as reserve tailback Gerald Van De Cruz scored from one yard out to get the scoring started.
East Stroudsburg went to the air on their next possession as Soltes hooked up with starting tailback Robert Healy on a 53-yard bomb, up the middle of the defense, to make it 14-0 late in the first quarter.
Healy, a versatile back and the active leader among PSAC players in career yards from scrimmage per game (126.3) entered the day just 460 yards away from becoming the Warriors’ all-time leading rusher.
“You get that every week,” Browning said. “You get something that you didn’t prepare for or that you hadn’t seen. That’s just a part of football each week. You always get some things you’ve just got to be able to adjust and play it.”
The Warriors tacked on another touchdown to open the second quarter as Soltes found senior receiver Gerard Wendowski on a 6-yard strike to make it a 21-0 ESU advantage.
On the following drive, Edinboro took nearly seven minutes to go 75 yards on 13 plays after starting on its own 18, but the Scots were unable to find points.
After entering the day with an 80 percent conversion rate in the red zone offensively, Edinboro’s drive came to a halt on a third down and goal interception thrown from the 7-yard line into the end zone by sophomore quarterback Jake Sisson.
“We were just trying to make something happen,” Browning admitted. “That’s totally my fault. We were down 21-0, [but] I should’ve just stayed with what we were doing. We tried to kind of draw something up that we thought was there. Jake faked it and forced the ball, and shouldn’t have, but he ended up throwing an interception. Had we not scored there and just kicked the field goal it would’ve been 21-3. I thought we still had a shot.”
East Stroudsburg responded by driving 80 yards on eight plays that was capped off by another Van De Cruz touchdown run from two yards out (three on the day) before scoring once more on a 40-yard touchdown pass from Soltes to senior receiver Joe Welk with under two minutes to play in the half to lead 35-0 at the break.
Edinboro began the second half with Sisson completing four straight passes, the final toss coming in the form of a 41-yard touchdown to a wide open Alex Caratelli on the left side of the field. It marked Sisson’s third touchdown on the young season as well as the first career score for the redshirt sophomore receiver and Robert Morris transfer, Caratelli.
Midway through the third quarter, Sisson (14-of-28 for 141 yards, one touchdown, one interception, four carries for 43 yards) took a hit and was forced to exit the game due to injury. As was the case a week ago, redshirt sophomore Jon Girvin (1-of-6 for 13 yards) entered in relief and finished the game for Edinboro.
“The trainers held him out and so we went with Jon,” Browning explained. “It’s like any second team quarterback, you only get so many reps. When you lose that first guy, he gets all the reps and it makes it really hard for the second guy to go in there and have a lot of success.”
Edinboro returns home to host California University of Pennsylvania on Saturday with a noon kickoff from Sox Harrison Stadium.
“We’ve just got to go back and reevaluate some things, reevaluate schemes, personnel and we’ve got to do a better job coaching and our guys have got to do a better job playing,” Browning concluded.
Mike Fenner is a Staff Writer for The Spectator