Walsh continues success despite Fisher loss

Courtesy of athletics.SJFC.edu

ITHACA, N.Y. – Two players finished with over 100 receiving yards and freshman quarterback Hunter Walsh (McQuaid) racked up a career-high 480 passing yards as the St. John Fisher College football team nearly orchestrated the largest comeback in program history on Saturday after scoring 22 unanswered points in the second half before falling to No. 13 Ithaca College, 38-35, at Butterfield Stadium.  Fisher, which entered the contest having won its last five games dating back to last season, moved to 3-1 while the Bombers improved to 3-0 through four weeks of play.

Walsh hit nine different receivers on the day and finished 30-for-47 with 480 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.  The Rochester native also added a rushing touchdown.

Junior TySean Sizer (Irondequoit) hauled in a career-best nine catches for a team-leading 155 yards and a score while Will Blake (Webster Schroeder) finished with 119 receiving yards and a touchdown on just four grabs.  Johnathan Letta (Hilton) caught five passes for 48 yards while Dahmir Pross (Bishop Kearney) chipped in with four catches for 70 yards.  Chris Park had three catches for 57 yards.

On the ground, Pross led the way with 35 yards and a touchdown while Ryan Ingerson added 24 yards on three carries.

After getting off to a slow start that put the Cardinals in a 14-0 hole leading into the second quarter, Fisher would bridge the first and second periods with a 13-play, 54-yard drive that culminated in a 26-yard field goal off the foot of Joe Dotterweich to make it 14-3.

As the second quarter continued, the Bombers took advantage of man-to-man coverage on the outside with back-to-back touchdown drives to open up a 28-3 edge.

Facing a 25-point gap, the Cardinals took over at their own 35 with just under 10 minutes to go before the break.  After two quick plays and facing a third-and-long, the Cardinals aired it out with Walsh hooking up with Blake over the middle of the field as the Penfield native broke a tackle and scampered 67 yards to the end zone to make it 28-10.

Ithaca’s offensive groove continued on its ensuing possession as the Bombers marched 64 yards on just four plays with the big blow coming in the form of a 32-yard run up the gut to push the lead back to 25 points, 35-10.

The Cardinals continued to work their offense as the second quarter wound down with Walsh hitting Pross downfield for 18 yards to move the sticks and give the visitors a fresh set of downs at the Ithaca 33.  From there, Sizer moved Fisher into the red zone with an 18-yard pickup on an end-around, but the Cardinals were forced to settle for a field goal as Dotterweich connected from 26 to pull the Cardinals to within 22, 35-13.

After swapping possessions down the stretch, Fisher took over at its own 20 with 1:36 to play, but came up empty as the Cardinals punted it away with 1:06 left on the clock for the Bombers to work with.

Already ahead by three scores, Ithaca continued to pass downfield as the Bombers came up with a 20-yard play on third-and-long before hitting a 47-yard field goal as the half expired to hold a 25-point lead at halftime.

Coming out of the break, both teams traded possessions before the Cardinals took over at their 36.  Facing a steep climb, Walsh found his rhythm as the McQuaid graduate began the drive with a 20-yard pass to Cole Harper before pairing up with Blake down the sidelines for 38 yards and another first down at the Ithaca 6-yard line.  After a penalty moved the ball back to the Ithaca 21, Walsh found Sizer for seven yards before breaking to the outside for a 14-yard pickup and a touchdown to cut the deficit to 18, 38-20.

With momentum beginning to swing, Fisher forced the Bombers to punt as Ithaca pinned the Cardinals at their own 10 with 3:49 left to play in the third.  With the box stacked and the Bombers blitzing, Walsh showed his poise.  After stepping up in the pocket, the freshman hit Sizer downfield as the Irondequoit native sprinted 90 yards to pay dirt to pull head coach Paul Vosburgh‘s squad to within 11, 38-27.

The Cardinals’ defense continued to shut down the high-powered Bombers as the third frame ticked on as the Bombers were forced to punt the ball away from the Fisher 36.

Following a 25-yard punt, the Cardinals once again found themselves deep inside their own end of the field as Walsh and the Fisher offense trotted back on to the field to begin a drive from their own 11.  Undaunted, Fisher strung together 11 plays highlighted by a 36-yard completion downfield to Park before Pross could punch it in for the one-yard score to make it 38-33.  Still trailing by four points, the Cardinals elected to go for the two-point conversion as Walsh found Blake in the back of the end zone to make it a three-point affair with over 12 minutes still remaining.

After battling all the way back from 38-13 in the third quarter, Fisher needed another stop on the defense as Ithaca looked to run the clock down. The Bombers worked their offense and moved the sticks down to the Fisher 14.  With a fresh set of downs and one-on-one coverage on the sideline, Ithaca looked for its go-to receiver in the end zone only to have Anthony Manna come away with an interception to bring the Cardinals’ offense back out for a chance to tie or take the lead with 5:51 still showing on the game clock.

With the ball at its own 20 following the pick, Walsh produced back-to-back completions for a first down at the Fisher 32.  After finding Park for a gain of 13, Walsh went back to the well and found Pross downfield for a 25-yard gain at the Bombers’ 28 yard line.  After picking up a yard on the ground on first down, the Cardinals were unable to move the ball following two straight incomplete passes.  Facing a fourth-and-nine, the Cardinals opted not to attempt the 44-yard field goal and went for it.  Needing nine yards for the first, Walsh delivered a strike to Ingerson, but the Bombers had it played well as Fisher turned the ball over on downs.

Still trailing by three points and with two timeouts to work with, the Cardinals came up with another huge stand defensively and would have 1:11 left to work with.  With the ball at their own 47 and just needing to get into field goal range, the Cardinals’ comeback bid would fall short as the Bombers intercepted Walsh’s pass to hold on for the non-conference win.

Defensively, the Cardinals were led by Justin Wheeler who finished with 12 tackles while Vince DiMonte chipped in with 11 stops.  Wheeler added a sack while DiMonte had half of a sack to his credit.  Tony Silvanic had nine tackles at the linebacker position while Cameron Bellino produced seven stops.  John Cleary (Fairport) added five tackles including 1.5 for a loss while Manna was credited with three pass breakups and an INT on the day.

As a team, Fisher’s offense produced 572 total yards, which is its most since 2017.  The Cardinals had 23 first downs and ran 80 plays overall.  Fisher was perfect in the red zone after going 4-for-4 as the Cardinals possessed the football for nearly 10 minutes more than Ithaca.

Fisher will look to get back to its winning ways at 6 p.m. on Saturday when it hosts The College of Brockport in Courage Bowl XV.  The game will also mark the conference opener for both teams.

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