Sea Gulls earn 5th ECAC football bowl title

The Salisbury University football team earned its fifth Eastern College Athletic Conference bowl championship in seven appearances on Saturday afternoon, taking down Albright College, 48-27, in the ECAC South Atlantic Bowl.

The Sea Gulls (7-4) jumped out to a 21-0 lead and never looked back, rushing for nearly 500 yards in the game, while junior slot Jerome Johnson made the most of his six touches, scoring four times while accumulating 148 yards of total offense to be named the game’s Most Outstanding Player.

Johnson got things started on Salisbury’s first offensive drive, following a three-and-out for Albright (6-5), highlighted by sophomore Tyler Paradysz’s sack of quarterback Patrick Wise, when he caught a 20-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Ryan Jones.

The connection saw a wide-open Johnson running up the seam on the right side, following a play-action fake. The scoring pass was the fourth of the season, against no interceptions, for Jones who has played in only the past four games. Jones finished Saturday 2-of-4 passing for 67 yards.

Jones would rush in from 4 yards out later in the first quarter and junior quarterback John Dunbar, who split time with Jones, ran in from 16 yards on the first play of the second quarter for the 21-0 lead.

Salisbury outgained the Lions in yards, 178-23 to start the game, while earning nearly 200 more offensive yards in the contest.

Albright would get on the board early in the second quarter, and after the teams traded punts it seemed the Lion defense was in a good spot, backing Salisbury down to the 2-yard line. But the Sea Gulls, led by Jones, would put together a 98-yard drive, covering seven plays in just 2:58. Johnson got the drive started with a 25-yard run up the right side, slipping through would-be tacklers, and Salisbury got an 11-yard run from sophomore Aarron Moore, a 27-yard run by sophomore super back Connor Canonico, and a 13-yard rush by sophomore Ryan Kolb. Canonico capped the drive with a 12-yard touchdown run.

The score was Canonico’s only touchdown of the day, but he was a workhorse, getting a game-high 20 carries for 129 yards.

Salisbury led 27-7 at halftime after junior Michael Landry picked off Wise late in the second quarter when the Lions were looking to cut into the lead.

Johnson scored on the first two possessions of the second half, from 29 and 31 yards out, to stretch the lead to 41-7. It was the largest lead of the day for the Sea Gulls, as Albright began to chip away.

The Lions scored on a pair of Wise touchdown passes, closing out the third quarter to get the lead to 41-21, but Salisbury would answer with Johnson’s final score of the day, a 20-yard run early in the fourth quarter.

Johnson carried the ball just five times, but went for 128 yards and the three touchdowns. Salisbury had 57 carries as a team for 484 yards, the team’s second-highest total this season.

Wise threw for over 300 yards, but found himself under pressure from the Sea Gull defense, led by junior Nick Batastini, who registered a team-high eight tackles and a sack. Sophomores Zack Seifert and Paradysz also had seven tackles each, while Paradysz had a sack and a half.

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