Worcester, MA -- Sophomore linebacker Aaron Inch (Selinsgrove, PA) recorded a game-best 14 tackles, forced a fumble and grabbed a late interception to help Susquehanna defeat host WPI 14-7 on a crisp autumn Saturday afternoon. With the non-conference win, the Crusaders snap a seven-game losing streak and end their season with a 2-8 record. WPI dips to 3-6 overall and heads to St. Lawrence next week for its season finale.
The Engineers had a chance to tie it up on a drive that started with just over five minutes left in the game as they marched 44 yards on 10 plays before Inch picked off a pass at the Crusader 10 and returned it 30 yards with 1:23 remaining. WPI used all three timeouts and got the ball back with 52 seconds left but on its own 20-yard line. The Crimson and Gray got into Susquehanna territory but just missed on a pair of long passes before turning the ball over on downs with four seconds left.
Susquehanna would get all the points they would need in the second quarter. The Crusaders capped an eight-play, 58-yard drive with a 27-yard touchdown pass from Rich Palazzi (Newfoundland, PA) to Spencer Cox (Myersville, MD) just 1:34 into the second stanza.
WPI's first possession of the second quarter would end quickly as Teighler Doak (Selinsgrove, PA) forced a fumble. The recovery by Braden Klingler (Selinsgrove, PA) led to a one-yard scamper by Palazzi at 9:14 to put the Crusaders up 14-0. The visitors used a defensive effort that limited the hosts to just 74 yards of total offense in the first half to take the 14-0 lead into the locker room at the break.
Early in the third quarter, Inch would force a fumble that was recovered by teammate Tim Pierce (Fairfield, NJ) at the Susquehanna 49 but three plays later the Crusaders would give the ball back on a fumble forced by Tom Thackeray (Braintee, MA) and recovered by Graham Leto (Grafton, MA) at the WPI 26.
With 12:31 left in the game, Trevor Dunne (Cedar Knolls, NJ) caught a four-yard touchdown pass from Johny Antonopoulos (Cambridge, MA) for a team-best fourth receiving touchdown on the season to cut the Crusader lead to 14-7.
Prior to its flurry of chances to tie the game in the final two minutes, WPI had one other drive in the fourth quarter that ended in enemy territory but a trick play backfired as a wide receiver double pass was intercepted by Klingler at the Susquehanna 33.
Palazzi finished the day 14-of-24 for 184 yards to go along with a touchdown through the air and one on the ground. Connor McGrath (Sparta, NJ) had game-highs of 20 carries and 99 rushing yards, all in the first half and Mike Ritter (Selinsgrove, PA) paced the receivers with nine grabs for 101 yards.
Ernie Mello (Wilmington, MA) ran 13 times for 72 yards for the hosts. Nick Bean (Middleboro, MA) would add 54 yards on four catches on the day as Antonopoulos completed 10-of-24 passes for 134 yards and the one score.
Defensively, Inch led the way for SU, with Mitch Phillips (Millersburg, PA) adding nine stops, including one for loss. Trevor Terpening (Mount Airy, MD), Pierce, and Jack McCarty (Westminster, MD) each made six tackles, with 2.5 for loss by Terpening.
For the Engineers, Peter Gill (Franklin, MA) paced the team with 12 tackles, followed by Steve Jenkinson (Gales Ferry, CT) with 10 solo stops of his own. Christopher O'Connor (Bellerose, NY) and Thackeray combined to make 14 stops while Manny Cambra (Bethel, CT) and Kevin White (Worcester, MA) each grabbed an interception for the Crimson and Gray.