Late touchdown pushes Saxons past Springfield

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SPRINGFIELD, MA – Sophomore tailback Chris Lopez scored on a five-yard run with 38 seconds left to snap a 28-28 tie and give the Alfred University football team a 35-28 win over host Springfield in the Saxons Empire 8 Conference opener Saturday afternoon.

The late touchdown capped a nine-play 45-yard drive and helped 23rd-ranked AU stay unbeaten on the season at 3-0 (1-0 Empire 8). With the loss, Springfield falls to 3-1 (0-1 Empire 8).

The score was tied at 21-21 after three quarters before the Saxons took a 28-21 lead on a 10-yard touchdown run by freshman tailback Austin Dwyer. Dwyer, who scored three TDs on the day (two rushing, one receiving), ran for a career-high 168 yard on 22 carries.

The Pride came right back on their ensuing possession, marching 61 yards on just four plays, with quarterback Josh Carter scoring on a four-yard run to cap a 1:33 drive. Both teams exchanged punts before AU took possession at the Springfield 45-yard line with 4:21 left in the game. The Saxons converted a pair of crucial fourth down tries on the drive. Junior linebacker Nick Clark rushed for three yards on a fourth-and-one play at the Springfield 35. Then, on fourth-and-10 at the Pride 35, junior quarterback Tom Secky  completed a 28-yard pass to sophomore wideout Andre McCloud that put the ball at the Springfield 5-yard line. Lopez scored the winning touchdown on the next play.

Springfield had one last chance, moving the ball to the AU 25-yard line before Carter's last-second toss was intercepted by AU senior wide receiver Ryan Thon at the goal line on the game's final play.

Springfield took an early lead in the game, driving 56 yards in six plays on its opening possession, with running back Alex Mendez giving the Pride a 7-0 lead with a 14-yard run 2:20 into the game. Alfred answered with two straight touchdowns. On the Saxons' next possession, Dwyer scored on a 56-yard run on Alfred's first play from scrimmage. With 2:22 left in the opening period, Secky hit freshman wide receiver Josh Phillips with a 22-yard TD pass to cap a three-play 46-yard drive.

The Pride knotted the game at 14-14 when running back Mark Safer score on a four-yard run with 47 second left in the first half. The score came five plays after Springfield's Scott Christy intercepted a Secky pass at the Pride 31 and returned it 48 yards to Alfred's 21-yard line.

AU regained the lead with 9:15 left in the third when Secky passed 10 yards to Dwyer to cap an 11-play 80-yard drive. A Mendez three-yard run with 5:18 left in the third made it 21-21.

Alfred put up 468 yards of offense (233 rushing, 235 passing) and had three turnovers. Lopez finished with 65 yards rushing on 11 carries with one touchdown. Secky completed 17 of 24 passes for 235 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Phillips had four catches for 66 yards and Dwyer had three for 32 yards. Thon finished with two receptions for 34 yards.

Springfield, which entered the game as the nation's third-best rushing team (404.7 yards per game), ran for 309 yards but was held to 31 yards passing and turned the ball over twice. Mendez had 129 yards rushing and two TDs and Carter finished with 63 yards on 13 carries.

Clark had a team-high 11 tackles to pace the Saxon defense. Senior linebacker Chad Pieri had eight tackles (two for loss) and junior linebacker Brady Bonaquisti (LeRoy, NY/LeRoy) had 10 tackles and a forced fumble. Junior end Marcellus Jones had eight tackles (1 ½ for loss) and a fumble recovery and sophomore tackle Mike Raplee had nine tackles.

Ken Goodwin had a game-high 12 tackles (one for loss), a fumble recovery and an interception to pace the Pride defense, Cody Flanigan had five tackles and 1 ½ sacks.

AU is in action next on Saturday, Oct. 2, at 1 p.m. at home against Frostburg State.