Top-ranked Saint Francis pushed to the limit in win

Big fourth-quarter plays needed to pull away.

Justin Green

Don’t be fooled by the 17-point final margin. The No. 1 University of Saint Francis football team was pushed to the limit in winning its sixth straight game.

Saint Francis beat No. 20 Concordia 35-18 on Saturday at Bishop D’Arcy Stadium, but the game was very much in doubt late in the fourth quarter.

Gavin Gardner’s 28-yard field goal (his third of the game) with 6:56 left put Saint Francis up 21-18 and the Cougars knew they would need a big defensive series to seal the game.

Big is what came next: Saint Francis outside linebacker Spencer Cowherd forced a fumble by Concordia’s Donte Desalle, and the ball was picked up by Saint Francis cornerback Ryan Johnson, who ran 46 yards for a touchdown and a 28-18 lead.

Saint Francis then recovered a short kickoff, and four plays later Justin Green rushed 26 yards for another touchdown and a 35-18 lead.

Saint Francis improved to 6-0 in handing Concordia its first loss.

Green rushed 34 times for 154 yards and three touchdowns to lead the offense, which was hampered when No. 1 receiver Rocky James left the game early with an injury. Quarterback Nick Ferrer completed 19 of 35 for 202 yards, but did not throw a touchdown pass, ending a streak of 31 consecutive games with at least two touchdown passes. Sean Boswell caught seven passes for 89 yards to lead the receivers.

Saint Francis linebacker Eric Dunten had a tremendous day, recording 12 solo tackles, 17 overall tackles, three sacks, 3.5 tackles for loss and one forced fumble. Piercen Harnish had eight solo tackles and 11 total. Johnson, Marcus Stepp and Emannuel Evans recovered fumbles and Blake Schumacher intercepted a pass.

Joe Conner led Concordia with 24 carries for 189 yards and one touchdown.

Concordia took an 8-0 lead early in the second quarter on a Seth Suida pass to Desalle, with the Cardinals converting the two-point attempt on a pass from former Concordia High School quarterback Peter Morrison to Kaleb Pohlman.

Green’s touchdown runs of 1 and 10 yards put Saint Francis up 12-8 heading into halftime. But it was Concordia with an 18-15 lead at the end of the third quarter after a 75-yard drive, with a Conner touchdown run, and a 25-yard field goal.

Gardner’s 26-yard field goal five seconds in to the fourth quarter tied the game, and set up the Cougars’ final push.

Saint Francis travels to Siena Heights next Saturday.