SALISBURY, Md. – The Salisbury University football team celebrated senior day with a 40-28 victory against the State University of New York at Brockport at a brisk Sea Gull Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Salisbury (5-4, 4-3 Empire 8) jumped out to a 9-0 lead, but would see the Golden Eagles stay within striking distance until the third quarter when the Sea Gulls scored 21-straight points to pull away.
SU ran for 307 yards, led by sophomore superback Connor Canonico's 123 yards, and went for a total of 412 yards of offense with sophomore quarterback Ryan Jones completing 5-of-7 passes for 76 yards, with two touchdowns, in his first career start.
It was one of those passing touchdowns that got the scoring started just three and a half minutes into the game, capping a game-opening 76-yard drive. Jones drew the defense in with a play fake and sophomore slot Aarron Moore was wide open on the right side in the end zone.
Brockport (5-4, 3-4 Empire 8) would go three-and-out on its first drive and the Sea Gulls would move again, advancing to the Golden Eagle 16-yard line before stalling. Salisbury would call on freshman kicker Alex Potocko, who was good from 37 yards for the 9-0 SU lead, the longest Salisbury field goal since October 20, 2012 against Alfred University when Eric Hart booted a 37-yard field goal.
The two-possession score would give the Sea Gulls the lead for good, but the Golden Eagles would cut into the margin twice, before Salisbury would pull away. Brockport got its first touchdown with 3:59 left in the first quarter, making the score 9-7.
After forcing a Salisbury punt, the Golden Eagles drove inside the Salisbury 5-yard line, but the Sea Gull defense stood strong. Salisbury held on back-to-back runs from the 3-yard line on third- and fourth-and-1 plays to force the turnover on downs. Junior Nick Batastini and sophomore Shane Marvel made the stop on third down and senior Nick Ochoa and sophomore Zack Seifert came up with the tackle on fourth down to get the ball back.
Batastini led the Salisbury defense with eight tackles, while Marvel had seven stops.
The teams traded fumbles, with the Sea Gulls getting the force from junior James Hall and recovery by senior Drew Allebach before Salisbury drove 75 yards on just seven plays with Potocko connecting on a 33-yard field goal for a 12-7 lead.
The Sea Gulls pushed the advantage to 12 points when the defense forced a three-and-out with 4:31 left in the first half, and Jones led the Sea Gulls down the field, capping a 48-yard drive with Moore rushing in from a yard out. Potocko's point after made it 19-7 at the half.
The Golden Eagles would score on the first drive of the second half to cut the lead to 19-14, but it would be as close as Brockport would be the rest of the day.
The single-digit spread did not last long as the Sea Gulls scored just two minutes later. Moore got Salisbury started with a 36-yard kickoff return, and it took just five more plays for the Gulls to cover the final 49 yards for the score, with freshman Dandre Dennis getting in from 6 yards out to push the lead to 26-14.
Jones would find Moore for a 16-yard score late in the third quarter and Jerome Johnson scored from a yard out, diving for the pylon, for Salisbury's final score early in the fourth to cap the Sea Gull scoring with a 40-14 lead.
The Golden Eagles would score twice to get within 12, but when Canonico recovered Tyler Dancause's onside kick attempt with 31 seconds remaining in the game, the Gulls sealed the win.
Prior to the contest, the program honored its 13 seniors who have helped the program to a 32-13 record over the past four years and three postseason appearances.
Salisbury now looks forward to the team's final regular season game, next Saturday, November 15, traveling to Frostburg State University, for the annual Regents Cup game.