Courtesy of Gannon Athletics
ERIE, Pa. - The Gannon football team went toe-to-toe physically with the fourth-ranked team in the country Saturday afternoon before a sun-drenched 1,542 fans at Gannon University Field. But in the end, the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference’s top defense held the Gannon offense in check and earned a hard-fought 34-7 victory in PSAC West action.
Saturday’s contest appeared to have the making of an offensive shoot-out through the first part of the opening quarter. California (Pa.) took the opening kickoff and drove 50 yards on eight plays, before settling for a 26-yard field goal.
Gannon answered with a 61-yard touchdown pass from Zach Boedicker (Northfield, Ohio/Nordonia) to Geoff Hicks (Buffalo, N.Y./Cleveland Hill) on the Golden Knights’ first offensive play of the afternoon. The duo hooked up down the left sideline for the score.
The three-time defending region champion quickly responded with a touchdown on its next drive. California (Pa.) drove 70 yards on five plays, regaining the lead at 10-7 on Blake Williamson’s nine-yard touchdown reception from Maryland transfer Josh Portis.
The Gannon offense was unable to get back on track after the opening possession, accumulating only 19 yards of total offense during the remainder of the first half. Meanwhile, the Vulcans added 10 points in the second quarter and went to the intermission with a 20-7 advantage.
California (Pa.) slowly stretched its lead with single touchdowns in each of the last two quarters to account for the final 34-7 score. The Vulcans’ score with 47 seconds left in the third quarter represented the first points the Golden Knights have allowed in the third quarter since the 2009 regular-season finale. Gannon opposition went 102 minutes and 14 seconds without a third-quarter point until Portis’ 10-yard touchdown pass to Chedrick Cherry with 47 ticks left on the clock.
California (Pa.) finished the game with advantages in first downs (26-8), rushing yards (216-35), passing yards (328-91), total yards (544-126) and time of possession (37:51-22:09).
Tyler Batts (Homestead, Pa./Penn-Trafford) rushed for 49 yards on 14 carries. Boedicker finished 5-of-15 for 91 yards and one touchdown through the air. The senior quarterback was held to minus 14 yards on the ground while being sacked six times.
Matthew Neal-Mink (Moorestown, N.J./Moorestown) anchored the defensive unit with a season-high 11 tackles. In the process, he moved into Gannon’s all-time top five in tackles with 263 career stops.
Keith Yager (Hermitage, Pa./Hickory) tied a career-high with nine tackles. Jon Petrigac (Pittsburgh, Pa./Central Catholic) entered the game with seven tackles in five games, before recording eight during Saturday’s contest.
Gannon dropped to 3-3 overall and 1-2 in the PSAC Western Division with Saturday’s setback. California (Pa.) remained undefeated at 6-0 overall and 3-0 in conference play. The Golden Knights return to action Saturday, October 16 at Lock Haven. Game time is scheduled for 12 noon.