Strong second half leads Salisbury to 36-19 Empire 8 win against Utica

Strong second half leads Salisbury to 36-19 Empire 8 win against Utica

SALISBURY, Md. – The Salisbury University football team picked up a 36-19 win against Utica College on a rainy Saturday afternoon at Sea Gull Stadium.

Junior quarterback John Dunbar ran for 75 yards and three touchdowns, while throwing for 111 yards, and junior slot Jerome Johnson went for 169 all-purpose yards to lead the offense which put up a season-high 513 total yards and rushed for 402.

The defense was paced by senior captain Drew Allebach, who recorded a team-high 10 tackles and a key interception in the third quarter. Sophomore lineman Tyler Paradysz also had 10 tackles and recovered a late fumble to help seal the victory.

Salisbury (3-2, 2-1 Empire 8 Athletic Conference) found itself in a hole on three separate occasions before taking the lead for good midway through the third quarter.

The Pioneers took the early lead with an eight-play, 66-yard drive, but the Sea Gulls would respond with an eight-play, 76-yard drive of their own to tie the score, 7-7. Johnson started the drive with a 29-yard rush, and sophomore Aarron Moore finished it with a 20-yard touchdown run with five minutes left in the first quarter.

A big kick return and quick-strike pass play put Utica (4-2, 2-2 Empire 8) back ahead, 13-7, but sophomore Zack Seifert blocked the point-after attempt to keep the lead at six points.

Salisbury would strike nearly as quick, needing just 1:16 to travel 47 yards, following Moore's 48-yard kickoff return, to take its first lead of the day. The big play in the drive was a 38-yard run by sophomore Ryan Kolb, and Dunbar punched it in from 3 yards out. Following sophomore Zak Osborne's point after, the Sea Gulls led 14-13.

The Pioneers began to work their way down the field, but saw the ensuing drive stall at the Salisbury 36-yard line, where they faced fourth-and-1. Electing to go for the first down, tailback Jesse Baldassare took a handoff to the right side, but he was met in the hole by senior Nick Ochoa and junior Josh Danko, getting stopped for a loss of a yard, and Salisbury took over on downs.

Neither team would score again until the second half; but the Sea Gulls would take control in the final 30 minutes of play.

Utica got in the end zone for its final score of the day on their second possession in the third quarter, with a 62-yard pass connection from Cody Butkiewicz finding Anthony Acevedo, but the two-point attempt failed, leaving the Gulls trailing, 19-14.

The connection was one of eight between Butkiewicz and Acevedo as the pair combined for 178 passing yards. Butkiewicz was 26-of-39 for 368 yards in the game.

The Sea Gulls would not wait to respond, traveling 74 yards over seven plays and just two and a half minutes to take the lead for good. Dunbar connected with Ryan Kolb for a 22-yard strike during the drive, and Johnson would score from 9 yards out for the lead, which became three points, 22-19, on Moore's two-point run with 5:51 left in the third.

Allebach came up with his pick of Butkiewicz on the second play from scrimmage on the next drive and Dunbar hit Johnson on an arcing pass down the middle of the field, between a pair of Pioneer defenders, which Johnson elevated to bring in for a 36-yard pass play to the Utica 11-yard line.

After a pair of rushes by sophomore Connor Canonico got the ball to the 1, a Dunbar keeper would push the lead to two possessions, 29-19.

Looking to get back within striking distance, the Pioneers would work inside the Salisbury 10-yard line before senior James Hall forced a Baldassare fumble, which Paradysz recovered at the 5-yard line.

With the 10-point lead, Salisbury would milk the clock, using 7:34 to travel 95 yards over 13 plays to put the game out of reach. The march, which was finished by Dunbar's third scoring run of the day, matched the longest this season for the Sea Gulls, making the score 36-19.

Utica would get the ball two more times, but could not score again, allowing Salisbury to claim the win.

The Sea Gulls return to action next Saturday, hosting Hartwick College as part of Salisbury University's Homecoming Weekend. The game is scheduled to kickoff at 1 p.m.

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