Fourth Quarter Turnovers Seal SHU Football's Fate in 27-21 Loss at Wagner

Sean Kessler hauled in a 4-yard TD reception Saturday vs. Wagner
Sean Kessler hauled in a 4-yard TD reception Saturday vs. Wagner

Staten Island, NY – In a game that featured six turnovers and 251 penalty yards the Wagner Seahawks scored 20 points in the fourth quarter, including two pick-sixes, to knock of the Sacred Heart football team, 27-21, Saturday afternoon.  Greg Moore (Newark, NJ) and Sean Kessler (Huntington, NY) both posted touchdowns while Garry Coles (Southington, CT) racked up 124 receiving yards on eight catches.  The home team continues to dominate the all-time series between the two programs, which is knotted at 7-7, as each side as only been victorious on the road once in seven tries.

Sacred Heart (5-4, 3-3 NEC) avoided a three and out on the game's first possession as quarterback Tim Little (Egg Harbor Twp., NJ) hooked up with Coles for 30 yards on a third down and 14.  On the next snap, Moore found a huge hole on a draw play and sprinted into the end zone from 40 yards out to give SHU a 7-0 edge.

Wagner (2-7, 2-4 NEC) did not have the same success on its first possession of the day.  Sacred Heart freshman cornerback J.D. Roussel (Pawtucket, RI) picked off Seahawks QB Nick Doscher to record his third interception of the season.  The Pioneers moved into Wagner territory but eventually turned the ball over on downs after failing to convert on a fourth down at the Seahawk 29-yard line.  The Seahawks would capitalize on the momentum and evened the game at 7-7 following a seven play drive that was capped by a six-yard TD run from Doscher.

The Pioneer defense came up with a big play on the next Wagner possession as Justin Embler (Cinnaminson, NJ) pressured the quarterback and leaped up to intercept a desperation pass for SHU's second takeaway of the game.   Little fired a strike to Kessler who made a diving catch at the goal line to secure a four-yard touchdown reception that put the Pioneers back on top, 14-7. 

Late in the second quarter Sacred Heart appeared to be on the verge of making it a two score game on a drive set up after Robert Dim (Sicklerville, NJ) was able to block a punt.  SHU had the ball on the Seahawk six-yard line but a pass deflected at the line of scrimmage led to an interception that kept the score line at 14-7 heading into the intermission.

Neither team would be able to score in a third quarter that featured eight penalties, several injuries, and a very slow pace. 

The Seahawks tallied the first points of the second half early in the fourth quarter by rounding out a 15-play drive with a 15-yard touchdown pass, Doscher to Sean O'Reilly.  Two plays into the ensuing SHU possession Julian Stanford intercepted a Little pass and gave Wagner its first lead, 21-14, with a 36-yard scoring return.

The Pioneers got good field position its next time out after Stanford was given an unsportmanlike conduct penalty after his celebration.  Sacred Heart found itself with a fourth and eight with just over seven minutes to play on the Wagner 38-yard line.  SHU head coach Paul Gorham, with all of his timeouts remaining, opted for a pooch punt.  The Pioneers would eventually regain possession with a chance to tie with 2:29 remaining in regulation.

Little moved the SHU offense up the field in the no-hudle with completions to Coles, Moore and Jo Jo Jamiel (West Yarmouth, MA).  Wagner's Jarrett Dieudonne ended the Pioneer comeback effort with a 66-yard pick-six.  The Seahawks were charged with two dead ball penalties after the score with 1:33 to play, leading to a missed extra point and good field position for SHU.

Sacred Heart would still provide late drama as Little found Rock Tate (Lantana, FL) for a 35-yard touchdown that cut the Seahawk advantage to 27-21 with 48 seconds on the clock.  The Pioneers on-side kick bounced off of a Wagner player and led to a loose ball.  However, the Seahawks eventually came out of the pile with the football to seal the Pioneers fate.

Greg Ibe (Queens, NY) made his return to the SHU offense after suffering an injury earlier this year.  He made one reception out of the backfield for seven yards.  Chris Mandas (Mission Viejo, CA) paced the Pioneer defense with nine tackles, including a pair of sacks.

Sacred Heart returns to action next Saturday for its final home game of the season against Duquesne.  The afternoon will feature senior day ceremonies as well as a tribute to the 2001 Pioneers, winners of the NCAA Division I-AA Mid-Major National Championship.