RPI football wins Liberty League Championship in win over St Lawrence
Strong start pushes Engineers 27-20 home victory
Troy—The RPI football team came back home this week to improve on its national ranking of fifteen with a game against the St Lawrence Saints. Despite a tough second half, the Engineers took the game 27-20 and the league championship.
After RPI deferred to the second half, St Lawrence showed that they were unafraid of one of the nations top defenses in the Engineers. A strong air attack set the Saints up on the goal line but the RPI defense, who only allowed 14.2 points per game so far this season, forcing them to attempt a field goal. As soon as the kick went up RPI got a hand on it and Alec Hazard recovered it at the seventeen yard line. RPI took their time while moving the ball down the field until George Marinopoulos found Tommy Avery who was running open post pattern in the end zone. St Lawrence held the ball for the remainder of the quarter. Even though the Engineers blew up most of the Saint’s short yardage plays, a slant route bears forty-eight yards on a run by Andrew Murphy. Tyler Grochot hit Anthony Ferraro in the end zone and then completed a two-point conversion with Travis Marnell, giving the Saints the lead.
In the second quarter, Marinopoulos and his receivers Vinnie McDonald and Conor Davies made quick work of the St Lawrence secondary. The drive lasted two and a half minutes and the trio recorded seventy-seven passing yards before getting another touchdown. St Lawrence failed to move the ball in their next drive, punting to the RPI thirteen yard line. A huge catch and run down the middle by Pete Lombardi worth seventy-one yards. The Engineers settled for a field goal by Sanjay Krishnan, putting them up 17-8 at the half.
Coming out of the intermission George Marinopoulos hit his running back Nick Cella on the check down and Cella ran it back sixty-five yards. Krishnan put the ball through the uprights and before they knew it the Saints found themselves down twelve points. Later in the third quarter, Conor Davies took the ball out of the Wildcat formation and broke through the defense for a three-yard touchdown.
The St Lawrence air attack became even more prevalent in the third quarter. Starting quarterback Tyler Grochot threw the ball twenty-nine times in the first half. He finished the game with a school record seventy-one pass attempts, going thirty-six for seventy-one. His previous high was only a couple weeks ago when he recorded fifty pass attempts.
RPI was ready for the air attack, Coach Isernia said, “That was their M.O. all year. They have two quarterbacks who can sling it. They were obviously trying to get it to Ferraro. They’re probably going to break their own records for attempts, completions, and yardage so we tried to dial up some plays where we could confuse the quarterback a little.”
Tyler Grochot found freshman Sean McCormack to his left and he ran to the end zone, a 20-yard score. The Saints tried to run it in for a two-point conversion but they were swallowed up at the line of scrimmage. The score stood at 27-20 in RPI’s favor by the end of the third quarter.
The Saints had one last chance to tie up the game. Down seven, the Saints were on their own five-yard line with three minutes to go. It took St Lawrence a minute and a half and eight plays to get the ball to their own thirty-yard line where they turned the ball over on downs to end the game.
With the win, the undefeated Engineers capture the Liberty League Champions and a guaranteed spot in the NCAA Division III playoffs.
Coach Isernia was proud of where the team had gone saying, “We had a lot of injuries, and I think this says a lot about our recruiting and depth. That they can come in and fill a hole even though they haven’t played significant minutes.”