Football outclassed in opener
Matt Gad – Sports Writer
In their season opener Saturday afternoon, Southern football fell to the Gannon University Golden Knights, 55-22. Gannon has now won their last four contests with the Owls. Both teams also opened up their seasons together last year, in Erie, Pennsylvania, when Gannon was victorious, 31-9.
Before he started reflecting on his team’s losing performance, head coach Tom Godek immediately flipped the switch to discussing their contest this Saturday at Stonehill: “We have to look at the film and make corrections … then we have to make sure we have the right guys out there making plays next week.”
Gannon dominated the game early, taking leads of 6-0, 13-0 and 20-0 before senior starting quarterback Ray Catapano was able to find Thomas LaSaracina just over a minute before halftime. He ended up with three touchdowns on the day, throwing two in the second half to true freshman Zhyaire Fernandes, an All-State and All-Conference selection out of Bunnell High School.
Senior wide receiver Shaquan Hall, who caught three passes for 32 yards, said the team did not quit. Despite losing by multiple possessions, Hall stressed that the Owls remain resilient.
“A big thing that we’ve preached all summer is just to keep fighting no matter what,” Hall said. “We’re definitely going up – there’s definitely a lot of stuff that we can improve on but I think we showed a lot of fight today from both sides.”
The Owls, who went 6-5 last season, will return home Sept. 15 for a 7 p.m. game with Assumption College, an NE-10 opponent. After a road date with American International Sept. 22, they will return to Jess Dow Field to battle their cross-city rival, the University of New Haven Chargers.
Southern’s roster this season includes just 12 seniors. When asked if inexperience played a role in the team getting outscored 55-22, Godek said it had more to do with Gannon just being a good football team.
“We gave them opportunities in the first half that they were gonna capitalize on,” Godek said, “and then when we did move the ball and score we couldn’t stop them from scoring [more points] to hold the momentum on our side.”
Gannon relied heavily on the play of their quarterback, Zach Phillips, who went 19-26 for 177 yards and two touchdowns. He also picked up 44 yards on the ground, including a single rush that went for 16.
In the redzone, Gannon was a perfect 7-7, while Southern was not as solid, going 3-4 in such circumstances. But in terms of time of possession the chances were pretty equal: the Golden Knights held the ball for 29:49 of the game, while Southern had it for a combined 30:11.
Catapano, who threw two interceptions in the game, went 102-190 for 1,490 yards last season. He collected 13 touchdowns and ran 80 times for 164 yards and six scores. Catapano hails from Franklin Square, New York and was an All-State and All-Long Island performer at Carey High School.
Photo Credit: Palmer Piana