Edinboro falls to Grand Valley State 35-10 in opener

Category:  Sports
Friday, September 13th, 2019 at 11:01 AM
Edinboro falls to Grand Valley State 35-10 in opener by Chase Rowland
Andrew Tomko leads the Boro offense in 2019. | File Photo

The Edinboro Fighting Scots football team began their 2019 campaign in unfamiliar territory, traveling on the road to face one of the premier NCAA Division II teams in the nation. The Grand Valley State Lakers, the top-winning program in DII history, have four national titles in their trophy case and are 10th ranked in the latest poll. Slippery Rock, a PSAC foe, is 11th in that same ranking.

Edinboro would have the ball first, playing to a packed house of an announced 14,552 fans in Lubbers Stadium, after the Lakers elected to defer. Starting quarterback Andrew Tomko, the junior who threw for more than 1,400 yards and 12 touchdowns last year, would open up alongside a freshman backfield comprised of Dorian Woody and CJ Reyes-Diggs. The young backfield results from Walter Fletcher’s transfer to Division 1 program Ball State in the offseason. Fletcher was the Scots’ leading rusher in 2018, while being named an honorable mention All-American.

An experienced wide receiving core returned to the field looking to cause damage against opposing defenses. Senior Ta’Nauz Gregory and redshirt freshman A.J. Turner looked to pick up where they left off last season, as they combined for over 1,000 yards through the air. Edinboro’s first possession was short-lived though, as the Scots committed a delay of game penalty on the first play. They would fail to bounce back, being forced to punt in a quick three-and-out.

Grand Valley State quarterback Cole Kotopka squared off against the Fighting Scots defense. Yet again, another penalty on a first play pushed the Lakers back early in the drive, and it seemed as if the Edinboro defense would be able to get off the field quickly. Kotopka and company had other plans, as the Lakers executed a huge 59-yard completion to running back Bryce Young Walls, putting Grand Valley on the goal line. Wide receiver Austin Paritee would then put the first points on the board for Grand Valley, hauling in a 1-yard reception in the corner of the end zone.

The Fighting Scots searched for revenge on the next possession, but Grand Valley would shut down a struggling ‘Boro offense, once again forcing a three-and-out.

Edinboro’s defense would pick up the slack after the Lakers started at midfield. Defensive back Billy DePaul would return an interception 34 yards before being pushed out of bounds inside Grand Valley territory.

Tomko and company would attempt to even up the score, but failed to move the ball and then failed to convert a crucial fourth-and-11, turning it over. Laker’s tailback Aryuan Cain-Veasy would take it from there. Cain-Veasy rumbled 48 yards into the end zone, pushing the score up to 14-0 late in the first.

Edinboro would come up with their second turnover of the game early in the second quarter, on a forced fumble courtesy of safety Brandon Anderson as the Lakers approached the Fighting Scots end zone. The turnover would not lead to points though, as the Scots could not capitalize on the momentum provided by their defensive core.

The luck for the Scots offense would eventually turn around later in the quarter. Following a roughing the kicker penalty that breathed new life into the drive, Tomko would hook up with his receiver Gregory for a gain of 36 yards. The Scots, despite beginning to move the ball, would settle for just three points on a chip shot 38-yard field goal from Vicente Arriagada.

Disaster would then strike ‘Boro late in the half, with the Lakers backed up to their own 6-yard-line. From here, Cain-Veasy showed off his true athleticism, busting the game wide open on an impressive 94-yard touchdown run. The Lakers would finish the first half with a 21-3 lead over the Scots.

The Edinboro defense showed up to play early in the second half, forcing their 3rd turnover of the game. This time defensive back Deandre Dowdell took a perfectly timed interception 46 yards to the house for a Scot’s touchdown.

That would be the last points Edinboro scored. Grand Valley, meanwhile, were left unfazed and answered immediately on a quick, five-play 64-yard drive that resulted in a touchdown. Cain-Veasy would cross the goal line again, pushing the score to 28-10. Grand Valley would close out in the final quarter with one last score, Kotopka connecting with his tight end Jayk Slager on an 8-yard touchdown pass in the back of the end zone. In the first ever meeting between the two programs, the Lakers would triumph on their home turf.

Grand Valley held the Fighting Scot offense to a total of 120 yards in the victory. The Lakers outmatched the Fighting Scots in first down totals, 20-5, converting 9-16 third downs to Edinboro’s 2-16.

Lakers tailback Cain-Veasy rushed for a total of 200 yards on 11 touches, scoring 3 touchdowns. Kotopka completed 18-29 in the passing game, throwing for 253 yards and 2 touchdowns. Wide receiver Paritee was targeted five times, good for 48 yards and a score.

The Grand Valley defense was locked in at the linebacker level, as Tyler Bradfield led the team with 6 tackles. He was followed by Brendannn Brown and Isiah Nkansah, each accumulating five.

The Edinboro quarterback Tomko completed 13-32 of his passes for 107 yards through the air.

The freshman backfield of Reyes-Diggs and Woody combined for 13 yards on the day. Gregory pulled in 4 catches for 54 yards, followed by Jon Long also grabbing four catches for 44 yards. The Edinboro defense shined at times and was led in tackles by cornerbacks Josh Boyd and Anderson, each with 5. Anderson would also force a fumble. The Fighting Scots totaled 3 takeaways, including 2 interceptions, 1 for DePaul and a “pick six” by Dodwell.

The Fighting Scots will host Grand Valley next year at home before returning back to Allendale in 2021 for another meeting with one of the top schools in the nation.

Edinboro will bring their now battle-tested squad back to Sox Harrison Stadium for PSAC West play against Bloomsburg University on Saturday, Sept. 14 at noon for the home opener.

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