Saxons top Salisbury, 31-21, to keep pace in Empire 8 standings
ALFRED, NY – The Alfred University football team forced three turnovers and held No. 23 Salisbury to 185 yards rushing – nearly 100 under its average coming in – as the Saxons beat the visiting Sea Gulls, 31-21, Saturday afternoon at Yunevich Stadium.
With the win, AU got revenge on the Sea Gulls, who whipped the Saxons 69-0 the last time these two teams met in Alfred, in 2011, and moved 4-1 in the Empire 8 (6-2 overall), a half- game behind league frontrunner Ithaca.
Alfred scored first, driving the length of the field after a Salisbury punt pinned the Saxons at their own 1-yard line 4:41 into the first quarter. Sophomore cornerback Calvin Bain (Rochester, NY/East) scored on a two-yard run to cap the nine-play, 99-yard drive that took 5:11 off the clock.
Alfred took a 21-14 lead into halftime, courtesy of a pair of trick plays that resulted in touchdowns. After Salisbury scored to tie the game at 7-7 after one quarter, the Saxons moved back ahead on their first drive of the second period. After Salisbury scored with 1:54 left in the first, Alfred took over at their own 39-yard line and used 12 plays to drive to the Sea Gull 6-yard line. On third-and-goal, AU senior wide receiver Jonathan Ruffin (Copiague, NY/Copiague) took a handoff on an end-around and lofted a pass to a wide open senior tight end Alec Ladonis (Nescopeck, PA/Berwick) for the touchdown.
Salisbury answered on the Sea Gulls’ ensuing drive, marching 85 yards on seven plays and scoring on a 38-yard pass from Joey Jones to Isaiah Taylor, tying the game at 14-14. Alfred responded on the Saxons’ next drive, starting at its own 16-yard line. AU faced a third-and-2 at their own 38 when senior wide receiver David Lee Tack (Newark, NY/Newark) took a handoff, pulled up and lofted a pass to senior wide receiver Josh Phillips (Syracuse, NY/West Genesee). Phillips caught the ball near the Salisbury 30, eluded two defenders and sprinted to the endzone for a 62-yard TD catch that game AU a 21-14 lead with 2:44 left in the half.
Salisbury tied the game at 21-21 with 6:36 left in the third on a one-yard Jones run that came two plays after Salisbury took possession at the AU 26-yard line following a short punt. But that’s all the scoring the Sea Gulls would get as Alfred tallied 10 points in the final frame.
The Saxons scored on a 22-yard TD pass from freshman quarterback Tyler Johnson (East Syracuse, NY/East Syracuse-Minoa) to Phillips 11 seconds into the fourth. The touchdown came one play after AU junior linebacker Justin Liberta (Hamburg, NY/Frontier) intercepted a Jones pass at the Salisbury 22-yard line on the Sea Gulls’ first play of the fourth. AU freshman kicker Thomas Gioia (West Seneca, NY/Bishop Timon) booted a 24-yard field goal with 1:39 left in the game to seal the Saxons’ victory.
For the second time in three games, the Saxons did not have a turnover and have had only one in the last three contests. Salisbury was not as fortunate, turning the ball over three times: twice on fumbles and once on an interception. Senior free safety Seiji Hinton (Freeport, NY/Freeport) had a game-high 11 tackles and forced a fumble to lead the AU defense, which held Salisbury to 271 yards of offense and 185 yards rushing. The Sea Gulls came in averaging 358 yards of offense and 283 yards rushing. Sophomore linebacker Peter Diak (Henrietta, NY/Rush-Henrietta) had five tackles (one for loss, one sack) and recovered a fumble; senior end Justin Collen (Averill Park, NY/Averill Park) had four tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble; and Liberta had two tackles (both for loss), including a sack.
The Saxon offense dominated a Salisbury defense that came in allowing only 279 yards per game, including a mere 79 per contest rushing. Alfred piled up 399 yards, including 165 rushing on 41 carries, with senior tailback Austin Dwyer (Hornell, NY/Hornell) running for a game-high 85 yards on 18 carries, Bain chipping in with 33 on four carries, and senior fullback Chuck Beckwith (Victor, NY/Victor) adding 32 on eight runs. Johnson was efficient, completing 16 of 23 passes for 166 yards and a score. Phillips caught five passes for 104 yards and two touchdowns and Tack caught three for 42 yards.
Jerome Johnson rushed for a team-high 55 yards for Salisbury, while Brendan Chavis added 46. Jones completed four of 12 passes for 86 yards and a score and Taylor caught two balls for 56 yards and a score.
Nick Anzallo had 10 tackles (one for loss) to pace the Salisbury defense, while James Hall had eight and Andre Carter had seven.
Alfred plays its season home finale next Saturday, Nov. 9, at 1 p.m. against Utica, then travels to Pittsford, NY, to take on St. John Fisher in the Courage Bowl at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 16. Salisbury hosts Ithaca next Saturday, with Alfred needing a Salisbury win to remain in the hunt for an Empire 8 title. Alfred wins in its final two games and an Ithaca loss to Salisbury would give the Saxons the conference crown and the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA championship tournament.
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