SU football loses season opener in heartbreaker

The Salisbury University football team fell in its season opener on Friday night at Albright College, 24-23.

After receiving the opening kickoff, the Sea Gulls put up the first points on an Alex Potocko field goal, following an eight-play, 69-yard drive that covered four minutes and 45 seconds.

Starting on the Salisbury 20-yard line, junior Connor Canonico was handed the ball on three-straight plays. He picked up 28 total yards, and aided by an Albright penalty, moved the ball to the Lions’ 42-yard line.

On the next play, senior Isaiah Taylor took a pitch on an end-around run from the left side, bursting down the right sideline for 30 yards to set the Sea Gulls up inside the Albright 15-yard line.

After pushing the ball to the 6, Potocko came on to covert the 23-yard kick for a 3-0 lead.

Salisbury quickly increased the lead to 10-0, after freshman Shane Gaines picked off a Mike Knight pass and returned it to the Albright 7-yard line on the Lions’ first drive.

Canonico found pay dirt with 6:38 left in the first quarter on a 1-yard rush on the third play of the drive for the Sea Gulls giving them the advantage, which they would take into the second quarter.

After the ensuing kickoff, Albright began driving, moving 76 yards and taking up the final 6:25 of the first quarter. However, after reaching the Salisbury 14, the Sea Gull defense clamped down to force a turnover on downs and put the ball back in the SU offenses’ hands with 13:12 left in the first half and keep the Lions scoreless.

The teams began trading punts from there, until the Lions knocked through a field goal to get on the board with 5:32 left on the clock.

Taylor answered quickly on the first play of the Gulls’ next drive. Taking a screen pass on the left side, Taylor beat his defender to the outside and ran down the left sideline, before finding three Lions in front of him. Cutting back inside, Taylor evaded all three tacklers and took the ball 79 yards for the touchdown.

The Sea Gull defense forced another Albright punt, but on the third play of the SU drive, Kali Boyce came up with an interception for the Lions on a deep pass. However, junior Christian Wilson got the ball right back for the Gulls on the second play of Albright’s drive, picking off Knight for his first interception of the game.

After a 2-yard Canonico run, senior Jerome Johnson took a pitch off the right side and sped through the Lion defense for a 21-yard score. With Potocko’s extra point, Salisbury led 23-3 with 46 seconds left before the half.

Wilson added his second interception of the half with 13 seconds left to secure the Salisbury lead at the break.

The Salisbury defense forced another Albright turnover on downs deep in Sea Gull territory to keep the lead at 20 to start the second half, but neither team was able to find the end zone in the third quarter.

After trading punts, a Salisbury fumble set the up Albright on the Salisbury 39. The Lions took advantage on an eight-play, 39-yard drive to cut the lead to 23-10.

The Sea Gulls got back into scoring position on the first play of their next drive, as Johnson took a pitch off the right side and ripped off a 62-yard run to the Albright 13. However, the drive eventually stalled at the 5 on downs with 11:07 left to go.

The Lions cut further into the lead with a Brian Wickkiser touchdown run with 6:15 left in the game, getting back to within six, 23-17.

With 5:28 left in the game, Albright forced a Salisbury punt, before driving 46 yards on nine plays for its third-straight score to take the lead, 24-23, with 2:29 left.

Salisbury began its comeback attempt with from its own 23 with 2:23 left on the clock. Junior Ryan Jones connected with Taylor twice in the first three plays, first for 13 yards, then for 16 yards to help move the ball to the Albright 47.

Junior Aarron Moore moved the ball to the Lions’ 29 with a 12-yard rush. Jones again found Taylor deep down the left side for 21 yards to move the ball to the Albright 1-yard line and get the Gulls into field-goal range.

However, the kick missed left, and Albright held on for the win.

Taylor led the team with 129 receiving yards, while adding 23 yards rushing. Johnson led the rushing with 84 yards and a touchdown, while Canonico added 74 yards and a score. Senior Nick Batastini led the defense with nine total tackles, while Wilson notched the two interceptions.

The Sea Gulls head into a bye week next week before heading back out onto the road for their first New Jersey Athletic Conference contest. The Gulls will travel to Montclair State University on Saturday, September 19 for a 1 p.m., kickoff.

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