The lead slipped away – again.
St. Francis held a six-point lead over Wagner College with 3:38 left in the third quarter Saturday in a Northeast Conference battle before a homecoming crowd of 1,023 at DeGol Field.
Then the Seahawks put together a fourth-quarter rally to score 10 unanswered points.
The first came on a 38-yard field goal by Eric Ortiz with 12:06 left in the game to cut the lead to 13-10.
Finally, Wagner took advantage of a terrible offensive series by St. Francis that lost 28 yards and forced the Red Flash to kick out of their end zone.
The result was a Wagner touchdown on a 33-yard pass from Matt Abbey to Tyrone Collins with 7:06 left to win the game, 17-13.
“I think that the kids came out with a great attitude, played hard defensively, and were fundamentally sound,” St. Francis coach Dave Opfar said after his squad had lost its seventh consecutive game, third straight in the NEC. “I thought that we gave ourselves an opportunity to win a football game, and that’s all I can ever ask from a football team.”
St. Francis led at half, 7-0, by virtue of a 10-play, 74-yard drive that was culminated by a 14-yard touchdown pass from quarterback George Little to wideout Omar Winston with 14:11 left in the second quarter.
The Seahawks (3-4, 1-2) responded on the first drive of the second half, taking advantage of an outstanding kickoff return to open the second half.
Kyle Trueblood returned the kick 37 yards to the St. Francis 48. That set up a seven-play drive that was capped by Abbey’s 1-yard touchdown on a quarterback sneak with 14:11 left in the third quarter.
Ortiz’ kick tied the score at 7.
The Red Flash took the lead after the defense came up with a big play.
Abbey’s pitch to running back Ryan Middleton was fumbled and St. Francis linebacker Ryan Shepherd recovered at the Wagner 17.
After a Red Flash play lost 2 yards, Little threw a high pass down the middle that tight end Ryan Zarnich snagged for a 19-yard touchdown.
Zak Campbell’s kick for the extra point was blocked by Wagner’s Frantz Placide, giving St. Francis a 13-10 advantage at the 3:38 mark of the third.
The Wagner winning score came after the Red Flash started a drive on their 32 but ended up at their 3 after Little was sacked for a 20-yard loss, forcing Bobby Fuller to punt from his end zone.
The loss overshadowed an outstanding performance by sophomore linebacker Scott Lewis, who recorded 23 tackles, tying for third in the St. Francis record book.
“We knew coming into the season that Shepherd, (Matthew) Parker, Tyler Gillmen, and Scott Lewis were going to be part of this, and we were really excited about it because they are superior athletes,” Opfar said. “They are true Division I-AA linebackers. It’s nice to see your linebackers leading the team in tackles.”
Wagner had a 229 to 87 edge in passing yardage while the Red Flash had a 62-45 advantage in rushing.
St. Francis will journey to Albany next Saturday.
The lead slipped away – again.
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