LANCASTER, Pa. -- On a day that Franklin & Marshall ran into trouble on long snaps, short snaps and holds, it didn't appear that a win was in the cards. On a day where those problems amounted to three-botched extra-point attempts, hanging the hopes of a homecoming win on a kicking game that hadn't hit a 35-yard field goal since 2007 seemed improbable. When push came to shove, freshman Chris DeStefano did the improbable, delivering a pair of fourth quarter field goals to defeat McDaniel 31-28 in Centennial Conference (CC) football.
DeStefano's game-winning boot split the uprights from 30-yards out with seven seconds left in the game. That came three minutes and 50 seconds after his 37-yard field goal had knotted the game at 28-28. There was no doubt about either kick. The game-tying field goal came four days shy of the anniversary of F&M's last field goal of 35 yards of longer.
DeStefano's pair accounted for one-third of the points F&M posted in the fourth quarter to overtake the Green Terror (4-4, 3-4 CC) in a wild affair. Trailing 21-13 heading into the final 15 minutes, the Diplomats (6-2, 5-2 CC) finally seemed to get on track. A 64-yard pass from John Harrison to Jarrell Diggs on the final play of the third quarter helped set up John Kashcak's one-yard touchdown drive with 14:32 left in the game. The Diplomats failed to convert a two-point conversion, making it a 21-19 game.
McDaniel responded to Diggs' big play with one of its own. Tom Massucci hit C.J. Billera for a 56-yard connection. On the next play, Tom Cahill collected a nine-yard Massuci pass in the back corner of the end zone to extend the McDaniel lead to 28-19.
Things started to unravel for the Terror on its next possession. Aaron Slaughter picked off a Harrison pass on the McDaniel one and the guests could not dig out. Jake Nichols boomed a 56-yard punt, but Diggs returned it 35 yards to set the Diplomats up with a short field. Harrison hit Kaschak on consecutive plays. The second, a screen to the left of the formation, saw Kaschak drag a defender into the endzone for six. A poor snap led to Chris Kolb's block on the PAT, the third F&M failure of the game, leaving it 28-25.
The Diplomats defense, which had been gashed by the Green Terror ground game throughout the day, held its turf on the next possession. On fourth and three from its own 32, the Terror attempted to fake a punt. Kolb dropped the direct snap and Michael Deutch fell on it at the McDaniel 37.
F&M's drive stalled on the Terror 20. That's when Troxell turned to DeStefano, who rectified the three missed extra points with the swing of his leg, making it 28-28.
McDaniel went three-and-out and F&M began driving. On first and 10 from the Terror 27, Harrison had a pass tipped by Zach Martin into the hands of McDaniel's Kevin White. The Terror started to drive, but a Nick Barbieri sack set them back five yards before an incomplete pass brought up third and 15. Massucci heaved the ball downfield where Phil Barbieri recorded his second interception of the afternoon before being dragged down on his own 35 with 38 ticks in the game.
Kaschak picked up 19 yards on a first down draw before Jay Ridinger drew a pass interference call to set the Diplomats up on McDaniel's 39. After an incomplete pass to Tim Muller, Harrison found Deutch for 25 yards. He was run out of bounds on the Terror 15 with ten ticks remaining. The connection, Harrison's school record 42nd of the afternoon established another school record for passing yards in a game at 447.
Beyond the records, it set up the decisive field goal, kicked on the next play.
Harrison had a strange afternoon throwing 60 times with four interceptions and a pair of touchdowns. Three of the picks were tip drill snags. Deutch and Diggs each piled up over 100 receiving yards. Diggs had 10 receptions for 139 yards, while Deutch had seven catches for 120 yards. Ridinger caught 11 passes for 60 yards. Kaschak, who had 71 yards on 11 carries also had seven receptions for 46 yards. He found the end zone twice.
Working with a 13-7 lead late in the second quarter, Harrison was picked off by Aaron Slaughter, who returned the ball 62 yards to the F&M four, setting up a Massucci one-yard plunge, giving McDaniel a 14-13 lead heading into the locker room. On the first play from scrimmage in the second half, Joe Rollins rumbled 48 yards to paydirt to extend the lead to 21-13.
Rollins finished the game with 124 yards on 13 carries. Massucci completed 14 –of-33 passes for 143 yards and two touchdowns. He was picked off twice by Phil Barbieri. Barbieri led F&M with 11 tackles. He also broke up a pass. F&M sacked Massucci four times with mark Surma accounting for 1.5 of the drops.
The Diplomats improved to 6-2 (5-2 CC) with the win, while McDaniel dropped to 4-4, 3-4 CC). F&M returns to action next Saturday against Johns Hopkins.