Season and home opener spoiled
Sam Tapper — Sports Writer
As dusk fell over Jess Dow Field Thursday night, the lights were on and the stands were packed; football at Southern was back. However, along with it came the Golden Knights of Gannon University.
The Owls suffered a 14-7 loss to the Golden Knights out of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC), in a game that featured stellar defense from both teams, as the score was tied at halftime 0-0.
“It was a very impressive show, by our defense,” said Owls head coach Tom Godek. “If we keep getting the look of our defense like that and get some things squared away on offense, I think we can have an excellent football team here.”
The Owl’s defense stood strong every chance they got, but Gannon was able to break through in the third quarter. The Golden Knights took over on touchdowns with nine minutes remaining in the quarter, and their sophomore quarterback Jimmy Keefe and company got Gannon on the board.
Keefe first threw a 32- yard pass into the endzone for sophomore running back, Melvin Banks, to put their squad up 7-0. The very next drive, Keefe again threw for a touchdown to put the Golden Knights up 14-0.
On the other side of the coin, the Owls’ offense was able to put together promising drives on plenty of occasions but could not convert in the red zone. Even in the final seconds, the Owls had the ball on Gannon’s goal line with the opportunity to tie or win the game, but ultimately fell short.
Their lone touchdown came on a rush from redshirt senior quarterback Matt Sanzaro, who utilized both his arm and his legs in this game, but ultimately finished the night with three interceptions.
“A lot of missed opportunities, a lot from me,” said Sanzaro. “It’s a team game. I think all we can do right now is watch the film, improve on it and practice for Pace next Friday.”
Sanzaro’s final stat-line was 16 completions on 36 passing attempts with 156 passing yards, as well as 24 rushing yards including his touchdown.
“Like I said, a lot of mental errors,” said Sanzaro. “First-game jitters had something to do with it. Like I said, film, got to get better, got to improve for week two.”
Though the Owls’ offense was not where they wanted it to be, there certainly were things to be excited about, the most notable being the breakout performance of running back, Johnmichael Bivona, a redshirtfreshman out of Trinity Catholic High School in Stamford, Conn.
Bivona finished the night with 86-yards rushing on 19 carries, his most notable play being a 21-yard rush to set the Owls up for nice field position. Though those numbers may not stand out at first glance, they were enough to lead the team in each of those categories.
Bivona may have surprised a lot of people, mainly because he was not listed on the depthchart as the starter or the primary backup. Listed ahead of Bivona were Kevin Momnohin, a senior who finished with 13 rushes and 49 yards, and Jordan Knight, a redshirtsophomore who did not see any action.
“I came in last year; I was behind Eli Parks. I learned a lot from him,” said Bivona. “Yesterday, they told me I was going to get the reps when I came in, and I took as much advantage of the opportunity as possible.”
Up next, the Owls will travel to Pleasantville, N.Y. as they visit nonconference Pace University. Despite the loss in the opener, the consensus among the coaches and players is that there is optimism going into week two and beyond.
“Hats off to the defense tonight; they played a phenomenal football game and they really held us in it,” said Bivona. “It’s the small things that we have to fix and next week we’re going to come out, fix those and get the [win].”
Photo courtesy: SOUTHERNCTOWLS.COM