Edinboro defense clips Griffins' wings en route to a decisive win

Category:  Sports
Friday, November 1st, 2019 at 11:10 AM
Edinboro defense clips Griffins' wings en route to a decisive win by Chase Rowland
CJ Reyes-Diggs looks for an opening to make a run through. | Photo: Faith Hannah

A week after going toe-to-toe with one of the top teams in the nation, the Edinboro Fighting Scots football team rebounded, going on the road and topping Seton Hill, 37-10.

The week prior, Edinboro scored a season-high 30 points against Slippery Rock University, while holding the 9th ranked opponent to a season-low 41. The Fighting Scots would get off to a tough start in the follow-up, but eventually carried over that spark.

Seton Hill opened the scoring to start the game. Led by their quarterback Ryan Barabe, the Griffins marched down the field decisively, putting together a nine-play, 75-yard drive. On the touchdown, Barabe would hook up with his wide receiver Matthew Williams in the back of the end zone from 13 yards out. In under 5 minutes time, ‘Boro was down 7-0.

The early touchdown would nearly be Seton Hill’s only points of the afternoon.

Both teams stalled out on the scoreboard until the second quarter, where Edinboro caught fire, dropping 17 unanswered points. Those drives were led by quarterback Levi Becker, making his second career start for the Fighting Scots.

Following a missed field goal by Seton Hill, Becker and company would make the Griffins pay, the quarterback finding his playmakers during the ensuing drive. Wide receiver Ta’Nauz Gregory started the push with a 35-yard reception to get the offense rolling. Edinboro would then find themselves inside the 5-yard line after Becker connected with wide receiver Khalil Jackson for 25. In the red zone, the offense handed the ball to their freshman tailback, CJ Reyes-Diggs, who punched the ball in from 2 yards out. Reyes-Diggs, tying the game back up at 7-7, also logged the first touchdown of his career.

Barabe and the Seton Hill offense looked to answer, but the ‘Boro defense had other plans. Freshman linebacker Saige Ley intercepted Barabe, returning it for 37 yards before being taken down at the 1-yard line. This was Ley’s first interception of his career.

Unfortunately, the excellent field position would result in only a field goal, Vicente Arriagada nailing it from 22 yards out.

Things went from bad to worse for Seton Hill on the next drive when Barabe would exit the game after injuring his throwing hand. He ended the day 10-21, throwing for 122 yards. That brought in backup Chris Jones to finish the contest.

Edinboro defensive back Josh Boyd finished the second quarter with a bang, picking off Jones on his first play at Seton Hill’s 42-yard line. Boyd returned his first interception for Edinboro 18 yards before he was taken down.

After the interception, the ‘Boro offense looked to strike, but almost ran into early disaster. Seton Hill safety Fardon Allen picked off Becker at their 32-yard line. The interception would not stand, though, as Allen was called for defensive holding. Becker, not shying away from the long ball a few plays later, launched one deep toward the end zone for Gregory. The pass fell incomplete, but Seton Hill would be hit with a pass interference. With the Scots at the goal line, Becker kept it himself, pushing forward, giving Edinboro a comfortable lead going into the half, 17-7.

Seton Hill found success on the ground quickly in the second half, led by tailback Michael Valentino. Valentino tried his best to put the Griffins on his back, exhausting the ‘Boro defense with a couple long rushes on an early drive. A huge gain of 34 yards, followed by two 12-yard runs put the Griffins in field goal range. Hunter Miller came out for a field goal attempt, which he nailed from 30 yards out and the last points on the Seton Hill side.

The Fighting Scots came back firing on the ensuing kickoff, driving down to the red zone once again. A great mix of run, pass, and option plays confused Seton Hill’s defense and put Edinboro inside the 5-yard line. The Fighting Scots would settle for three points once again as Arriagada kicked his second out of three field goals, this time a chip shot from 21 yards out.

With time running out in the third quarter, Seton Hill would then gamble on a fourth-and-2 at Edinboro’s 42-yard line. A handoff to Valentino was blown up immediately by Connor Kelly and Gilberto Ortiz for a loss and a subsequent turnover on downs.

Edinboro would capitalize on the turnover, marching toward their last field goal of the day. Arriagada went 3-for-3 on field goals after his final 23-yard kick went through the uprights. The 11-play, 49-yard drive would extend the lead to 23-10.

Seton Hill, with time running out, opened up their playbook. Jones came out firing, hooking up with wide receiver Matthew Williams for 35 yards down the far sideline, putting the Griffins in scoring position at ‘Boro’s 45-yard line. Then, a flea flicker play eventually thrown by Seton Hill’s running back JaiQuawn McGriff was intercepted by defensive back Aaron Rogers. Rogers, with great blocking, turned on the jets down the near sideline and left everyone in his dust. The comeback effort for the Griffins was dashed with the impressive 55- yard return, putting the game out of reach at 30-10.

After another turnover on downs, Edinboro would keep their foot on the gas, Reyes-Diggs taking a wildcat snap up the middle 16 yards for the touchdown. It would be the final nail in the coffin, with Edinboro leading 37-10.

Becker finished the day completing 14-23 of his passes for 206 yards. He added one rushing touchdown and threw one interception to conclude the afternoon. Becker spoke on what has been clicking for the team the past few weeks.

“We have had a solid gameplan each of the past few weeks. I think it really helps that we’ve been able to distribute the ball around to several guys and get them involved on offense.” Becker continued, “ We got some momentum against Slippery Rock and then brought it into the Seton Hill game where we got help off turnovers from our defense.”

Seton Hill experienced trouble under center as Jones finished his day 5-19 and adding an interception.

The run game for Edinboro, although only piling up a total of 34 yards, produced 3 touchdowns for the Fighting Scots. Reyes-Diggs punched the ball past the pylon two times.

Edinboro wide receivers Gregory and Andre Dowdell carried the load, hauling in 6 catches a piece. Gregory led the receivers in yards with 89, and Dowdell was just two yards short with 87. Seton Hill had great production from their receivers, as well. Michael Elardo was targeted five times and hauled in 67 yards through the air. Kinan Humphrey pulled down two passes for a total of 58 yards.

The deciding factor in the victory came at the hands of the Edinboro defense. The Fighting Scots had 4 sacks on the day, which totaled a loss of 28 yards. They stuffed the Griffins on 4th down conversions twice. The Edinboro defense forced 5 turnovers on the day with three coming off of interceptions. The other two were fumble recoveries by Ortiz, one being a strip sack at the end of the game. Edinboro compiled 17 points off of turnovers.

Rogers, after his impressive performance last Saturday, was not overlooked in awards, being named PSAC West Defensive Player of The Week. He finished with 5 tackles, a fumble recovery and the 55-yard interception touchdown return.

Edinboro Head Coach Wayne Bradford was nothing short of impressed by the team’s efforts.

“Our defense has played tremendous all year, and we’ve been snake bitten by injuries on both sides of the ball. We haven’t complained and continued to persevere, and our kids have just been a special group and certainly deserve to win today,” he said.

Arriagada was another Fighting Scot honored, earning the PSAC West Special Teams Athlete of the Week. He made all three on Saturday.

Arriagada has impressed this year as he’s only missed two field goals so far. He holds a streak of 8 consecutive made field goals over the past few weeks.

This is the second time two Fighting Scots players where selected in the same week. The last coming against Gannon with Arriagada and Brandon Anderson being recognized on the defensive side of the ball.

Edinboro is 2-6 overall and 2-2 against PSAC West opponents. The Fighting Scots come rolling back into town with momentum, as they get set to play a familiar PSAC opponent in Clarion. Clarion is 3-5 overall and has struggled against teams in their division, sitting at 1-4.

The Golden Eagles will look to break a 3-game losing streak.

Kickoff begins at noon at Sox Harrison Stadium. Edinboro Television will broadcast the game — look for links on the EdinboroNow social media accounts that morning — while 88.9 FM, WFSE Fighting Scots Radio will also carry the game.

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