Owls win football vs St. Anselm College Hawks. game 34-31
Morgan Douglas – Sports Editor
In his first year as a football player, Owls’ kicker Szymon Gawlick created a memory to last a lifetime during Friday night’s home opener against the St. Anselm College Hawks. The Owls narrowly defeated the Hawks 34-31 off the boot of Gawlick and his last-second field goal, improving to 2-1.
“I’ve seen it before on NFL and college games,” Gawlick said. “And I was like, no way this is actually going to be happening to me on this Friday night at our own home field. That’s just something totally different.”
The home crowd was rocking the entire game. after nearly two years without Owls football such was to be expected; but with the dramatic nature of the victory, the attendees reached a crescendo as the players swarmed the field to embrace their hero kicker.
The game itself was more than one play at the end, however. It took 59 minutes and 59 seconds of play to get to that point. A lot happened. It ought to be recapped.
The Hawks scored a touchdown less than a minute into the game. A great opening kick return gave them a short field, and Hawks quarterback Drew Willoughby was able to find wide receiver Cade Horton for a 31-yard touchdown strike.
The Owls got their offense going on the second drive. Quarterback Jackson Ostrowsky took a shot downfield to wide receiver Tye Hodge, who had his man beat to get himself open. The play resulted in a 57-yard touchdown to tie the score early.
The Owls’ defense forced a three and out, and special teams gave the offense good field position to start their third drive. The offense capitalized and Ostrowsky threw his second touchdown pass to receiver Tylon Papallo, who broke a tackle on his way to the end zone.
Late in the first quarter, St. Anselm had a goal to go sequence in which the Owls’ defense stepped up and held them to a field goal. 14-10 after one quarter of play.
A sack by Hawks linebacker Damien Williams set up a daunting 3rd and 24 for the Owls. Receiver Izaiah Sanders stepped up with a terrific catch and run to gain an improbable first down.
After directing traffic and putting a man in motion, Ostrowsky threw a dart to Sanders for his third touchdown pass of the first half.
“Jackson told me if we got man-on-man coverage, and they pressed me, we could not let them get away with that,” Sanders said, “so he was throwing it to me 100 percent.”
The score was 21-17 at the half. The Hawks scored their second touchdown by peppering wide receiver Anthony Brown with target after target until he found the endzone. The biggest revelation in the third quarter was the change of quarterback. Ostrowsky was replaced by Joe Bernard, a junior, due to an undisclosed injury.
“I knew that there was a little injury,” Bernard said. “But I’m always ready. I prepare as a starter every week. I know that my time’s going to come at some point, so I have to take advantage. Jackson set things up great for us in the first half.”
Bernard led a drive resulting in a field goal, and the score was 24-17 at the end of three. Running back T.J. Gardner broke off a 56-yard gain early in the fourth before being tackled at the 11-yard line. Out of a four-wide shotgun formation Bernard found Sanders who shoved his way through would-be tacklers on his way to paydirt. It was Bernard’s first touchdown pass in college.
“We do this every day and I was ready to go,” Bernard said, “I just threw it to where ‘Zay (Sanders) was, ‘Zay got open, he did the work, and got in.”
Gawlick converted the extra point. 31-17 Owls with over 12 minutes remaining.
With just over five minutes left, the Hawks ran an option keeper out of the shotgun on which Willoughby scored to cut the lead to 31-24.
The Owls went three and out on their corresponding drive and committed a 15-yard penalty on their punt, leaving the door open for the Hawks to tie it with over two and a half minutes on the clock and all three timeouts.
Brown continued to carry the Hawks, breaking tackle after tackle on his way to a 51-yard game-tying touchdown with 1:49 remaining.
With 38 seconds left, the Owls had the ball in Hawks territory on a fourth and 10. Do or die.
Bernard dumped it to running back Anthony Ligi to pick up the biggest first down of the game.
With one second left, head coach Tom Godek called timeout and brought on special teams for a last second field goal attempt.
The attempt initially appeared to have been botched and the game was headed to overtime, but a late flag called a 15-yard penalty against the Hawks, giving Gawlick another chance from close.
“It’s a big penalty,” Coach Godek said. “We were fortunate, the ball moved a little closer, we felt a little bit better at that range. The guys blocked good, held good, kicked good, and here we are with the victory.”
Despite the chaos at the end, the Owls were able to come out with the 34-31 victory and will take the road to face University of New Haven next week feeling confident.
“From top to bottom, this group’s great,” Bernard said. “From the first strings to the last strings, we’ve got something special here. I think we can go pretty far. I’m really excited.”