Fourth quarter dooms Sabers
BY JOBY FAWCETT
Sometimes a gamble pays off, even when it isn’t perfectly played.
Trailing by six and facing a fourth down on the first play of the fourth quarter, Carbondale Area faked a punt against an emotionally charged Susquehanna team.
Although the pass attempt failed, a pass interference penalty kept the drive alive.
It gave the Chargers an opportunity and they seized it, as well as the game’s momentum.
One play after the penalty, Carbondale Area’s Jason Martin hauled in a 28-yard touchdown pass to spark a 28-point quarter as the Chargers went on to beat the Sabers, 41-19, on Saturday afternoon at William Emminger Memorial Field.
Until the start of the fourth quarter, Carbondale Area (8-1 overall, 4-1 Division III) had been held in check for the most part by the Sabers defense. Susquehanna had 13 tackles for loss or no gain and held a 19-13 lead through the first three quarters.
With a strong wind at their backs, the Chargers chose to try and make a play from the Susquehanna 43-yard line instead of relinquishing possession and it set off the late rally.
Ricky Jones followed the Martin touchdown with a 21-yard punt return that led to his own 5-yard scoring run.
After another stop by the energized Carbondale Area defense, Martin caught a 32-yard touchdown for his third score of the game that pushed the lead to 34-19 with 6:50 remaining.
Another three-and-out followed for the frustrated Sabers. Tim Mantis powered his way to a 20-yard run and Jones finished the final scoring drive with a 13-yard touchdown run that made it 41-19 with 3:02 left.
Carbondale Area ran nine plays for 108 yards in the first 8:52 of the fourth quarter with four going for touchdowns.
Compounding Susquehanna’s problems was a series of injuries that depleted the starting team.
First, Lewis Esposito went out in the third quarter, then defensive end Evan Aldrich exited after a hit along the sideline, and Brett Hepler, who had run for 154 yards and two touchdowns, injured a shoulder on his 14-yard touchdown reception that gave the Sabers a 19-13 lead in the third quarter and didn’t return.
Before the setbacks, Susquehanna (5-4, 3-1) had built a 19-13 lead, fueled by Hepler’s running and the swarming defense.
“We knew that we could stay with them,” Susquehanna coach Kyle Cook said. “I was happy with what we did early. They stuck us a few times and then they started making plays and we couldn’t stop them.
“We had guys hurt and then they had the great field position with the wind in the fourth quarter.”
Susquehanna struck first to start the game as Hepler burst through the center of the Carbondale Area defense for a 67-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
Carbondale Area answered when Jones went 53 yards on his second carry of the game.
Late in the first half, Hepler went 67 yards again to spot the Sabers a 13-7 lead at the half.
And in the third, Martin caught a 23-yard touchdown on the Chargers opening drive that featured three completions from Jesse Jankowski, who finished with 196 yards passing that made it 13-13.
Susquehanna travels to Old Forge Friday night for its final regular season game.
Carbondale 7 0 6 28 – 41
Susquehanna 7 6 6 0 – 19