Courtesy of athletics.SJFC.edu
PITTSFORD, N.Y. – The St. John Fisher College football team overcame a 21-point deficit on Saturday to match a program record as Joe Dotterweich drilled a game-winning 34-yard field goal as time expired to lift the Cardinals to a 31-28 win over visiting Buffalo State at Growney Stadium. The win, which was the second consecutive victory for Fisher, was a fitting finale for the Cardinals’ senior class who were celebrated prior to kickoff. The Cardinals concluded their 2018 campaign at 3-6 overall and 3-4 in the Empire 8 while Buffalo State, which will depart for the Liberty League next season, finished its year at 1-9 overall.
Fisher’s 21-point deficit tied its largest comeback in program history as the Cardinals equated that feat in 2016 in an overtime win over The College at Brockport in Courage Bowl XII.
After falling behind 14-0 late in the second quarter, Fisher strung together an 11-play, 52-yard scoring drive capped off by a three-yard pass from Joshua Michels (Brockport) to Cam Cleveland (East Rochester) to make it a one-score game with just 12 seconds left in the opening half. The momentum changed hands quickly, however, as Buffalo State took the ensuing kickoff 85 yards to close out the half with the visitors on top, 21-7.
Coming out of the halftime break, Buffalo State added to its lead courtesy of a 15-play, 75-yard drive to put the Cardinals behind by 21 points.
After swapping possessions over the next two minutes, Fisher was aided by a short punt and began to move the ball with back-to-back completions to Will Blake (Webster Schroeder) and Johnathan Letta (Hilton). From there, Malachi Duvall (Webster Schroeder) moved the sticks with a 16-yard run before bursting through the line and scampering 23 yards to pay dirt to pull the Cardinals to within two scores, 28-14, heading into the fourth quarter.
The momentum continued to build in Fisher’s favor after the Cardinals forced a punt to begin the final frame. Following a 50-yard boot, Michels and the offense began their next drive at their own three, however, a quick nine yard strike on the outside to Cleveland gave the team some breathing room. With a fresh set of downs and the ball at the Fisher 15, Michels stepped up in the pocket and aired out an 85-yard bomb to Cleveland that resulted in a touchdown and the team’s longest play from scrimmage this season as Fisher climbed to within 28-21.
With the lead still in the visitor’s favor, Buffalo State tried to burn clock and kept it on the ground, but the Bengals’ running back mishandled the exchange and fumbled the ball at their own 21 as Justin Wheeler corralled the loose ball and sprinted 21 yards for the scoop and score as Fisher scored 14 points in 13 seconds to tie the game at 28-28 with under 10 minutes left to play.
As the quarter wore down, neither team was able to hold onto the ball as there were four turnovers on four consecutive drives before Fisher found itself with the ball at its own four with 1:17 left on the clock.
With time working against the Cardinals, Michels hit Wyatt Stehle on the sideline for a quick seven-yard gain before finding Blake over the middle for 43 yards and a first down. After stopping the clock with timeout, Fisher regrouped with 45 seconds left to play as Ryan Ingerson slashed his way through the Bengals’ defense for a 22-yard gain and another fresh set of downs. Fisher would work the ball down to the Buffalo State 17 with a pair of completions to Cleveland before head coach Paul Vosburgh called a timeout with two seconds left before sending the field goal unit out onto the field. Fisher, which had converted just one field goal in its last eight games, saved the best for last as Dotterweich’s attempt sailed through the uprights with plenty of leg to spare as Fisher completed the comeback win to close out its season.
As a team, Fisher racked up a season-high 490 yards on 84 plays including a season-best 164 rushing yards with Cleveland accounting for 289 total yards on his own. The East Rochester product had a career-high 12 catches for 192 yards and a pair of touchdowns, which marked the most for a Fisher receiver since Cleveland had 158 through the air against Brockport earlier this season. Cleveland also had it going on the ground after netting 97 yards on just five carries.
Michels was the driving force behind the comeback as the senior quarterback went 22-for-45 for 317 yards and two touchdowns. Michels connected with six receivers on the day with Blake hauling in five passes for 72 yards. Ingerson had two grabs for 39 yards while Stehle made two catches for 18 yards in the win.
Aside from Cleveland’s productivity on the ground, Duvall added 38 yards and a score while Ingerson and Connor Spies combined to produce 37 yards in all.
Defensively, Evan Majewski led the team with 12 tackles while Cameron Bellino had 11 stops and a fumble recovery. Tony SIlvanic contributed 11 tackles of his own while William Riechert nabbed 10 stops including two for a loss. Wheeler had nine tackles in the win with two sacks, a fumble recovery and a touchdown. Demarre Nelson (East Rochester) and Christopher Biryla combined to 12 tackles and six pass breakups. Brennan Thompson had an interception in his final game while John Cleary (Fairport) had six tackles and a sack.
Michael Burton punted three times and averaged 38.0 yards per kick while Dotterweich made each of his extra point attempts.