The St. Lawrence University football team used four interceptions and three touchdown passes from senior JP Kearney to stun Hobart College at Leckonby Stadium on Saturday afternoon by the score of 24-21 in front of 1,825 fans during the University's Family Weekend. The victory, the first over Hobart since the 1991 season, came hours after the dedication of the Ted "Bear" Stratford '57 football locker room.
The win keeps St. Lawrence tied atop the Liberty League standings with Union at 2-0, while improving to 2-3 overall in 2010. Hobart falls to 2-2 after dropping its second consecutive game.
"It was a great team-win against a very tough conference opponent," said St. Lawrence head coach Mark Raymond. "Our kids played great under pressure and made all of the plays when they had to."
Senior wide receivers Alcee Walker and Ethan Sutton provided the fireworks on offense, as the duo caught touchdown passes of 33, 61 and 33 yards. Junior tailback Marcus Washington turned in a 115-yard performance on the ground, while Kearney finished 8-of-21 passing for 171 yards and three touchdowns. Defensively, senior co-captain Ben Cryts hauled in a career-high three interceptions including the game-winner with 14 seconds left in regulation. First-year linebacker Andrew Cox made a game-high 14 tackles, while both Cryts and classmate Ryan Fedo turned in 10 tackles each.
Hobart's Kyle O'Laughlin closed with at team-high nine tackles for the Statesmen, while Steven Webb led the offense with 85 yards rushing and a touchdown. Quarterback Doug Vella completed 16-of-34 passes for 187 yards and a pair of scores, but was undone by the four interceptions.
The two conference foes exchanged long touchdown completions in the first quarter, as Vella found Mike Lazore for a 26-yard score only 3:43 into regulation. However, Kearney answered on a 4th-and-10 with a perfect toss to Walker, who had beaten his defender and caught his first career touchdown pass from 33 yards out. Conor Callahan (Hobart) and Matt Dodge (St. Lawrence) added the respective extra points to cap the first quarter scoring at 7-7.
After St. Lawrence forced Hobart to punt on its first drive of the second quarter, the Scarlet and Brown went right back to Walker on first down. This time, the West Palm Beach, FL native beat coverage and went for 61 yards to put St. Lawrence on top 13-6 with 8:22 remaining in the opening half. Dodge added the extra point to give the Saints a 14-7 cushion at halftime.
The Statesmen seemed to grab the momentum in the third quarter, as they held the ball for 12:47 and had 23 offensive plays to St. Lawrence's three. After Vella completed an 18-yard touchdown pass to Junior Woodard with 5:04 remaining in the frame to the score at 14-14, Hobart called an onside kick which the kicker, Callahan, recovered on his own. The Saints' defense stepped up big, however, as junior Doug Geraghty sacked Vella to force a 44-yard field goal try that Callahan sailed wide left.
The home team regained its lead at 17-14 with 4:56 remaining in regulation thanks to a 33-yard field goal by Dodge that capped a solid 12-play, 57 yard drive. However, Hobart would show some resiliency of its own, as they needed only two plays to cover 48 yards in 39 seconds to take a 20-17 lead. After a 22-yard completion by Vella to Juan O'Farrill, Webb got to the outside on a rush and took it to the end zone from 26 yards out. Callahan's extra point made it 21-17 Hobart with 2:05 left in the fourth quarter.
Junior Trevor Saunders got the Saints started with a big kick-off return to the 50-yard line, and a personal foul penalty on the Statesmen would get the home team to the 35-yard marker. Facing a 3rd-and-8 from the 33, Kearney got great protection from his offensive line and threw a perfectly thrown ball into the end zone for Sutton, who was wide open and scored his third touchdown of the 2010 season. Dodge's extra point made it 24-21 with 1:42 left to play.
The rest of the work was done by the St. Lawrence defense, as they intercepted Vella twice in only three plays to celebrate the narrow victory. Senior Chris Palmer stepped off the defensive line into coverage and picked off Vella with 1:20 remaining, and after Hobart got the ball back on a St. Lawrence three-and-out, Cryts put the game away with his third interception with 14 seconds showing on the clock, allowing the Saints to storm the field to celebrate a 24-21 victory.
"We made the key plays on both sides of the field," added Coach Raymond. "Our defense caused five turnovers and really did a nice job against the run, while our offense made key plays at crucial moments with the game on the line."
Before the game, St. Lawrence University proudly dedicated its modernized football locker room in memory of legendary coach Ted "Bear" Stratford. During his 10-season tenure, Coach Stratford posted a career record of 64-25 and remains the winningest coach in the football program's history. His 1976 team was an NCAA Tournament Semifinalist and the ECAC Team of the Year. The new locker room features renovated facilities, new lockers for each player and distinct simultaneous meeting spaces for the offensive and defensive units.
St. Lawrence will hit the road next Saturday headed for Central New York, as the Scarlet and Brown will play its final non-conference game of the season against Utica College. Kick-off between the Saints and Pioneers is slated for 2:00pm.