Today: Jul 17, 2024

Football loses despite hauling in three interceptions

Mark Tillotson – Staff Writer

Coming off back-to-back wins in which the offense looked unstoppable, the Owls fell to American International College (AIC) by a score of 34-7 on Saturday afternoon. The loss spoiled the Owls Homecoming weekend and dropped them to a 2-5 record on the season. The Owls offense struggled to find their rhythm all day as a stingy AIC defense forced them to punt eight times. They were without starting running back Vaughn Magee and leading receiver Jerome Cunningham because of suspensions.

The Owls would get their first chance to score early in the second quarter. On the eighth play of the drive, running back Jack Mallis fumbled the ball inside AIC’s 5 yard line, shifting the momentum of the game.

It didn’t take long for the momentum to be handed back over to the Owls. After an AIC three-and-out, SCSU junior quarterback Jacob Jablonski connected with senior receiver Willie Epps on a 39-yard strike to the end zone. After the PAT, SCSU had a 7-0 lead with nine minutes to go in the second quarter. Epps said the play really got his team going.

Photo Courtesy | Jon Pater
Junior defensive back Malcolm Crosson intercepting a Kevin Arduino pass. The Owls picked off three of his passes on the day and have seven this year.

“Everyone was really happy,” Epps said. “Everyone re-gained confidence and we just kept on playing.”

It would take less than two minutes for AIC to strike back. On the fourth play of the drive, running back Hunter Beckmann scampered down the left sideline and shook an attempted tackle from Dion O’Joe, resulting in a 59-yard touchdown. The point after knotted the game at 7-7

After the AIC defense forced a punt, the Owls got another big play from their secondary. On a first down from the Owls’ 25-yard line, Arduino was intercepted in the end zone by sophomore Mike Dunkley.

With two minutes left to go in the first half, SCSU’s defense stood tall again. On a first and goal at the Owls’ seven yard line, junior defensive back Sebron Woodley sacked Arduino. The next play, Arduino was picked off again, this time by freshman Malcolm Crosson.

Photo Couresy | Jon Pater
The Owls defense had their issues against AIC, allowing 598 offensive yards.

The second half was a much different story for both teams. The AIC offense was clicking and the SCSU defense suddenly fell apart.  With 8:22 left in the third quarter, Arduino put AIC ahead for good on a 34 yard touchdown run. Just three minutes later Arduino connected with Gary Farley on a 5-yard touchdown pass to put AIC up 21-7.

After Jablonski threw another interception, AIC scored on their first play from scrimmage on a 28-yard halfback pass from junior Terrell Williams to junior receiver Cal Brownridge. The PAT was missed but AIC now led 27-7. Overwhelmed by the AIC offense, the Owls’ defense looked to be down and out.

The Owls’ offense wasn’t moving the ball and they couldn’t stop anything the AIC offense threw at them. Jablonski said the reason the Owls had trouble scoring wasn’t because of a lack of preparation.

“They didn’t do anything we weren’t ready for,” Jablonski said. “I do think they played very physical and disguised their defense very well.”

Although the offensive struggles led to a lopsided loss,  head coach Rich Cavanaugh and Jablonski think the team can build on it.

“We did some good things and the guys played hard,” said Cavanaugh. “We have a young team and they will continue to work hard, and that’s what is important right now.”

Jablonski said the team can build on the things they did well.

“We saw what we can do in the first half,” Jablonski said. “We were a very efficient offense and that’s what we need to build on and do more consistently.”

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