Tomko to Turner drives ‘Boro to first PSAC West win

Category:  Sports
Thursday, October 4th, 2018 at 9:22 AM
Tomko to Turner drives ‘Boro to first PSAC West win by Chris Rosato Jr.
Photo: Kelly Staschak

The Fighting Scots earned their first PSAC West win, a homecoming 31-24 victory over local rival Gannon on Saturday, with a touchdown pass in the closing moments after the game had been tied for over 20 minutes.

With less than 2 minutes left in the fourth quarter, quarterback Andrew Tomko connected with tight end A.J. Turner in the end zone to give ‘Boro the lead for the first time all afternoon. Neither team had been able to score since halfway through the third quarter when Edinboro tied the game at 24 with a pass to James Clark.

Head Football Coach Wayne Bradford praised his team for staying within themselves throughout the tense second half until they were able to take the lead.

“We practice really hard and we practice very strenuously, so the game should be easier,” he said. “So just hats off to our staff for really, in the second half, calming down and our players, even though we had some personal fouls… I don’t think we ever truly lost our composure.”

The game-winning touchdown was Turner’s second of the game and season, as he caught a pass in the corner of the end zone at the end of the first quarter to give ‘Boro their first points of the game. Bradford said teams are going to defend Clark — Edinboro’s leading receiver who’s second all-time in career receptions for the Fighting Scots — so it’s imperative that Tomko is able to connect with other targets.

“It’s great because teams are smart, and they’re going to take your best guys away. Just like defensively, we’d like to make you left-handed, take your right hand away if you’re right-handed,” Bradford said. “You have to be diverse and you have to have more than one attribute to be successful long-term in this league.”

Gannon struck first and second with a pair of rushing touchdowns from quarterback Jason Dambach and running back Marcus Jones to hurry out to an early 14-0 lead. Jones, who led Division II football last year with 2,176 rushing yards, rushed for a total of 133 yards after earning just 22 in the previous week at Clarion.

Freshman kicker Jake Monroe continued his impressive debut year with his first field goal on his second attempt of the season. He was solid from 32 yards early in the second quarter to cut Edinboro’s deficit to 14-10. Before Edinboro could catch up, Gannon countered with a 24-yard field goal from their freshman kicker, Brian Strybel, to regain their touchdown lead.

Walter Fletcher capped off a 73-yard drive with a 1-yard rushing touchdown to bring the score to 17-17, where it would stay to finish the first half.

Fletcher ended the day with 109 yards rushing, earning his fourth 100-yard game of the season. His success in the game was assisted by the efforts of Edinboro’s O-line, who have been improving as the season progresses. Right tackle Trey Staunch credited the offensive line for continuing to work together even after losing one of their starters in the first half.

“With Alex Molik going down earlier in the game and Justin Kasmierski stepping up, I think him just stepping up and playing a big role in this win is huge,” Staunch said. “And with Coach Corey having so much confidence in him and being able to put him in there and just roll with the starting four that we had, I think the O-line did a great job day.”

The third quarter initially resembled the first, with Jones rushing for the first score of the second half and staking Gannon out to a 24-17 lead. Clark’s touchdown, though, evened the score less than 2 minutes later as Edinboro needed just 5 plays to march 65 yards to the end zone. Clark’s 7-yard touchdown reception followed a 39-yard heads-up play from Tomko and Clark. On a free play due to Gannon jumping offsides, Clark ran a deep fade route and caught Tomko’s bullet before being pushed out of bounds.

With the game tied up at 24, fans at Sox Harrison Stadium waited with baited breath for over 20 minutes of game time — an hour of real time — for either team to score. Edinboro forced a three-and-out on Gannon’s next drive and led with a 14-yard reception by Walter Fletcher, but two runs for a net 0-yard gain and a sack on Tomko squandered the opportunity.

The Fighting Scots lost the ball in their first drive of the fourth quarter on a fumble after Tomko was sacked, but immediately gained the ball back with a Zuril Hendrick interception on Gannon’s opening play of the drive. The interception was Hendrick’s fifth of the season and 19th of his career, placing him in a tie for second in career interceptions at Edinboro.

Strong safety Brandon Anderson, who led Edinboro in the game with 11 tackles — seven of which were solo tackles — said the defense hung tough throughout the game despite falling behind at certain points.

“These guys have a whole lot of grit and these guys never stop fighting,” Anderson said. “There’s no folding in this team. No folding at all.”

Later in the quarter, Edinboro gained the ball after a failed fourth-down conversion attempt by the Golden Knights, but Tomko threw his third interception of the game on their second play. The Fighting Scots defense would then force a three-and-out with some help from a personal foul call against Gannon to set the offense up for their 11-play, 80-yard scoring drive.

The rivalry game was contentious throughout, with both teams combining for 23 penalties and accounting for 236 yards. Gannon had 5 personal fouls while Edinboro had 6. Bradford said he expected the teams to get heated and praised the referees for keeping the excitement within reason and not letting the game get out of hand.

“We talked all week about not getting caught up in that, and it’s hard,” he said of Edinboro’s penalties. “They’re 18-22 [year olds] and they’re very competitive — we’re ultra-competitive.”

After another failed fourth-down conversion by Gannon, it meant Edinboro needed only to take three knees to run out the clock. Anderson said the defense knew how important Gannon’s final drive was, but they were prepared for it.

“We knew they had one timeout and they wanted to go out of bounds, so we knew that we wanted to protect the sidelines and eat up clock,” he said. “Our secondary, we’re the best in the country. And we’re going to keep proving people wrong.”

The win makes Edinboro 1-1 in the PSAC West and 4-1 overall while Gannon remains without a win through five games this season. The Fighting Scots will travel north on I-79 to face another Erie county rival Mercyhurst Saturday at noon. 

Christopher Rosato Jr. can be reached at sports.spectator@gmail.com.

Additional Photos:

Photo: Kelly StaschakPhoto: Kelly StaschakPhoto: Kelly Staschak
 
Tags: sports, football, psac

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