Pross, Fisher football falls short in bid to upset No. 19 Cortland

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PITTSFORD, N.Y. – The St. John Fisher College football team snapped the ball a season-high 84 times, but was one play away from upsetting nationally-ranked SUNY Cortland on Saturday as the Cardinals came up on the wrong side of a 42-37 decision inside Growney Stadium.  With the defeat, Fisher slipped to 4-4 on the season and 1-3 in the Empire 8 standings while Cortland, which is ranked 19th in the latest national poll, remained undefeated at 7-0, 4-0, respectively.

For the first time since 2008, Fisher produced three consecutive games with at least 80 plays as head coach Paul Vosburgh‘s team racked up nearly 500 yards in total.  Fisher, which moved the chains 29 times on the day, averaged 5.7 yards per play and held the football for nearly seven minutes longer than Cortland.

It didn’t take long for Fisher’s defense to make a play as Jason Rodriguez, who is tied for the most interceptions in the nation, jumped a route for his seventh pick of the year to give the Cardinals the ball at the Cortland 27.  From there, Fisher needed just four plays before freshman quarterback Hunter Walsh (McQuaid) broke to the outside for an 11-yard touchdown run to give the home team a 7-0 edge.

Following just its third interception of the year, Cortland’s offense came back onto the field trailing by seven.  With the ball at its own 28, Cortland quickly moved into Fisher’s territory with a 67-yard pass before a 10-yard strike on the outside leveled the game at seven points aside.

With the contest all squared up, Fisher began its drive at its own 35 as Walsh hit TySean Sizer (Irondequoit) and Pat Galer on back-to-back plays to move the sticks.  With a fresh set of downs, Fisher would work the ball down to the Cortland 21 before Joe Dotterweich came on to drill a 38-yard field goal to make it a 10-7 affair.

After swapping possessions as the first quarter wrapped up, Cortland would string together a 7-play, 72-yard drive capped off by a 50-yard pass down the middle that found pay dirt and made it 14-10 in the visitors’ favor with just 53 seconds gone by in the second period.

The Red Dragons’ offense would come up with another big-yardage play on their next drive as Cortland aired it out again for 64 yards and another touchdown to open up an 11-point cushion, 21-10.

Trailing by two scores with just over 10 minutes left to play before halftime, Fisher’s offense began to build momentum as Dahmir Pross (Bishop Kearney) moved the chains with a 4-yard pickup before Walsh found Blake on the sideline for 10 more yards and a first down.  With the ball spotted at the Cortland 47, Walsh would complete three straight passes including a 12-yard ball to Blake in the corner of the end zone to pull Fisher to within 21-17.

Trailing by four points, Fisher kicked it off as Cortland broke to the outside and looked to move the ball up field only to have the kicker, Dotterweich, come up with a huge hit that jarred the ball loose as Kyle Vachon pounced on the turf and recovered the fumble to give the Cardinals possession on Cortland’s side of the 50.

From there, the Cardinals went deep into the playbook with a double end-around that was passed back to Walsh who uncorked a 46-yard flea-flicker to Galer who came down with the reception at the Cortland one.  On the next play, Pross broke through the line and crossed the plain to put six points on the board as Fisher now led, 23-21.

The momentum carried over on defense as Fisher forced Cortland to punt as it took over at its own 35 with 3:22 still showing on the clock.

Holding a slim lead, the Cardinals looked to move the ball as Walsh completed four straight passes including a 42-yard diving catch by Chris Park to set up a first-and-10 at the Cortland three.  Two plays later, Pross punched it in again for his second score of the day as Fisher took a nine-point lead into the locker room, 30-21.

Coming out of the break, neither team was able to put points on the board until the Red Dragons sent the house and blocked a punt before scooping it up and taking it 20 yards for a touchdown to pull to within 30-28.

The play seemed to energize the visitors as they forced Fisher into another punt before marching 71 yards on 10 plays and converting a two-point conversion to hold a 36-30 lead over the Cardinals with 3:42 still showing in the third quarter.

Facing an uphill climb, the Cardinals went to work as Walsh and Fisher’s offense orchestrated a 15-play drive that went 72 yards down to the Cortland eight yard line, but did not result in points as a 25-yard field goal attempt missed wide right to keep it a six-point contest.

The Red Dragons took over at their own 20 with time on their side and worked over five minutes off the clock before moving the ball down to the Fisher two.  With four downs to work with, Cortland’s pass on first down fell to the turf before the Cardinals came up with back-to-back stops to force the Red Dragons into a field goal.

Following an 18-yard kick that sailed through the uprights, Fisher found itself in a 39-30 hole.  Trailing by two scores and 7:27 remaining in the game, Walsh moved the chains with his arm as he hit Galer down the seam for 30 yards and a first down.  Three plays later, the first-year signal caller hit Sizer downfield for 17 yards before Pross’ number was called on four straight plays before the Bishop Kearney graduate broke free and scored his third rushing touchdown of the day to make it 39-37 with just over four minutes still to go.

With momentum favoring the Cardinals, Cortland continued to move the ball as it ran nine plays and moved 58 yards over 3:55 before kicking a 26-yard field goal to make it a five-point game, 42-27.

Needing a touchdown to win, Fisher got the ball back with just 21 seconds to play.  Undaunted, Walsh hit Blake on the sideline for 15 yards and came right back with the same play for 12 more.  With the ball spotted at the Cortland 24, Walsh found Blake again for 11 yards to move the ball to the 13.  From there, Walsh would hit Blake again in the corner of the end zone only to have the Red Dragons knock the ball loose before a holding call with no time showing on the clock signaled the end of the comeback bid.

Walsh had another strong performance after going 30-for-52 for 397 yards and a touchdown.  The freshman has now thrown for over 350 yards and no interceptions in consecutive games.

Galer led the receiving corps with a career-high 131 yards on eight catches while Blake continued to dominate on the outside with 12 receptions, 119 yards and a touchdown.  The senior leads the conference with 69 receptions and 874 yards.  Sizer had six grabs on the day for 91 yards while Park hauled in two catches for 48 total yards.

On the ground, Pross finished with 32 yards on 19 carries along with a game-high three touchdowns while Ryan Ingerson added 54 yards on 11 carries.

Defensively, Cameron Bellino finished with a game-high 14 tackles and a pass breakup while Evan Strassberger and LeMar Peters had seven stops each.  Durrel Hutcherson and Leyton Miner each made six stops for Fisher while Rodriguez was credited with five tackles and a pick.  Sam Maddi had one sack and three tackles.

The Cardinals will enjoy a bye week on Saturday before returning to action at 1 p.m. on Saturday, November 9th at Morrisville State in an Empire 8 tilt.

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