Lakers spoil party in homecoming game

Category:  Sports
Friday, October 18th, 2019 at 11:45 AM
Lakers spoil party in homecoming game by Chase Rowland
'Boro loses 44-23 in front of homecoming crowd. | Photo: Jamie Heinrich

Two local rivals seeking bragging rights met in Edinboro’s homecoming game on Saturday, Oct. 12, with visiting Mercyhurst sending 4,000-plus fans home unhappy. The Lakers would top the Fighting Scots, 44-23.

Edinboro came into the contest off a last-second, thrilling victory over other local rival Gannon. Freshman kicker Vicente Arriagada played hero, nailing the game-winning field goal from 35 yards out as the clock hit zero. Mercyhurst, meanwhile, was seeking redemption after a rough loss to Slippery Rock (45-14) the previous weekend.

The Edinboro defense would flex their muscles early in the loss, as the Fighting Scots deferred after winning the coin toss. All went according to plan from there. On the second play of the game, ‘Boro cashed in on a fumble in the end zone recovered by linebacker Ryan Bischof for a touchdown. The fumble resulted from a costly lateral pass behind the line of scrimmage.

“The guys did a great job getting around the football. We teach pursuit and a relentless effort for all 11 of our hats to get to the football,” said Edinboro Head Coach Wayne Bradford.

“They made a mistake and we have done a great job the past few years with takeaways and turnovers.”

The ‘Boro defense held the Lakers to a three-and-out on the next possession. However, the ensuing rugby punt from Mercyhurst’s Brendan Cole didn’t go as planned. He’d stumble down to the turf after a poor snap, putting the Fighting Scots offense in great field position. On came Jordan Castelli to make his third start at quarterback in relief of Andrew Tomko.

The Fighting Scots would begin their first drive on the Lakers 34-yard line, but couldn’t capitalize on the miscues. Castelli would get as far as the red zone, but he’d be picked off trying to convert on third-and-5. Lakers linebacker Joseph Scro jumped the route perfectly and after a few blocks down field, turned on the jets and left everyone in his rear-view mirror. As quick as a lightning strike, the game was knotted back up, 7-7, after an 80-yard return.

Edinboro would get the ball back and try to offer a rebuttal. The offense failed to answer, though, and instead experienced another hiccup. Castelli would be forced to exit the game after being shaken up during the drive.

A three-and-out brought on the special team’s unit, who made sure to make some noise of their own and pick up the offense. A booming 43-yard punt from Corey Badaracco started the sequence. Return man Cortez Watson looked to gain some yards, but ran into disaster. Safety Anthony Mendicino stripped Watson of the football and walked into the end zone, untouched, giving ‘Boro their second defensive touchdown of the game and making it 14-7.

Quarterback Doug Altavilla and the Lakers offense continued to struggle from there. The next drive for the Lakers would stall out after an interception by defensive back Brandon Anderson.

After the exit of Castelli, third-string play caller Levi Becker stepped onto the field for action. Becker did well putting the Scots in the red zone once again, but they’d have to be content with three points after an impressive stand from the Lakers.

The game looked to be firmly in the hands of Edinboro. But that wouldn’t last long. Altavilla — who last week grabbed the all-time leading passing mark in Mercyhurst history, eclipsing 7,000 yards through the air — started to take over the game. He’d methodically push the ball down the field 92 yards, chewing six minutes of clock, and ending with a Watson 18-yard touchdown grab. This drive also included a conversion on fourth-and-9.

After an ensuing Edinboro punt, Altavilla would go back to work, connecting with fullback Jason Armstrong from 12 yards out for his second touchdown of the game. Despite flashy turnovers, Edinboro would be down at the half.

At the six-minute mark of the third quarter, the Scots found themselves in further trouble. Punting deep in their own end, pressure came from the Lakers front line. A low snap to Badaracco was fumbled in the end zone. The Scots would fall on the pigskin avoiding a touchdown, but surrendered a safety to make the score 22-17.

Altavilla’s performance through the air, meanwhile, opened up new opportunities in the Mercyhurst playbook. Specifically, it opened up a deadly rushing attack from Garret Owens. Owens would carry the offensive load, punching the ball in the end zone on three separate occasions. The first came immediately after the safety from ’Boro, as he punched it in from 9 yards out, making it 30-17.

Becker would end the third quarter throwing his first interception. He would be backed up in his own end when Mercyhurst linebacker Jon LoChiatto gave the Lakers excellent field position.

Owens would then muscle his way into the end zone once again, this time from 3 yards out, as the Lakers began to pull away, 37-17.

The Edinboro offense would break the scoring drought soon after, as Becker found a familiar face in receiver Ta’Nauz Gregory. The playmaker would go 43 yards total, streaking down the sideline, while then cutting up midfield. This would be Becker’s first Division II touchdown pass of his career, as well as Gregory’s 31st receiving touchdown in his stellar campaign at Edinboro.

Altavilla completed 18-27 of his passes and hurled the ball through the air for 202 yards. He would rally after an early interception to finish with 2 touchdowns. Owens finished with 3 touchdowns, trucking ahead for 103 yards on 23 carries.

The Lakers defense came away with 3 turnovers in the game. The linebacker trio of LoChiatto, Scro and Ryan Funa caused troubles for the Edinboro offense all day long.

Castelli would start the game but only play a small role on Saturday after exiting with an injury. He would finish his day 6-13 and throw for 73 yards. Becker completed 7-19 of his passes for 84 yards. He threw two interceptions on the day but picked up his first touchdown pass of his career.

“It was exciting,” Becker said. “Not necessarily just for myself, but that as a team we were able to get some more points on the board.”

The run game for Edinboro fell short after a nice performance from the Lakers defensive line. Fighting Scot Dorian Woody was called on 17 times and rushed for a total of 44 yards.

Gregory continued to etch his name in the Edinboro record books. He hauled in 8 catches for 99 yards and a touchdown.

Defensive back Aaron Rogers led the team in tackles with 6.

With a 1-5 overall record and a 1-2 mark in the PSAC West, the Fighting Scots will next take on Slippery Rock on Saturday at noon at Sox Harrison Stadium

The Rock comes in undefeated at 6-0. Edinboro will be looking for a memorable upset.

Additional Photos:

'Boro loses 44-23 in front of homecoming crowd. | Photo: Jamie HeinrichBrandon Anderson and Maurice Sims tackle Garrett Owens. | Photo: Jamie Heinrich
 

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