GETTYSBURG, Pa. - Making his first collegiate start, sophomore Kody Smith threw for 281 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions on 19-of-28 passing, and Gettysburg scored 41 unanswered points en route to a 57-35 Centennial Conference victory in the season finale for both teams Saturday afternoon at Shirk Field at Musselman Stadium on Senior Day.
The Bullets' 18 seniors, making their final collegiate appearance, were recognized before the start of the game.
Gettysburg (6-4, 5-4 CC), which posted its first winning season since 2007, scored on its first 10 drives and was stopped only on its final possession, when it turned the ball over on downs leading 57-28 with 2:58 left.
After starting the year 1-3, Gettysburg won five of its last six games. The Bullets came from behind in each of their final three wins and after rallying from 17 down against Dickinson and 23 against Susquehanna, Gettysburg wiped out an early 11-point deficit against F&M.
"We talked a lot this week about focusing on playing a full game," said Gettysburg head coach Barry Streeter. "We had a lead in the first half last week and lost it, so for this week we had to focus more than anything else.
"This team battled every single game, every snap. When they were 1-3 and the conference championship wasn't looking very good they could have folded."
The Bullets, who outgained F&M 504-427, set a school record for points scored in a season (394) and rushing touchdowns in a regular season (33). Gettysburg's record-setting offense will graduate eight players who started or contributed heavily this season, and several broke school records or finished highly in numerous offensive categories.
"They've been so committed," said Streeter. "They matured on the field but also off the field as leaders and individuals."
Senior receiver Brian Betley caught four passes for 103 yards and two touchdowns for Gettysburg, and his last reception gave him 100 for his career. On the play after Betley's milestone catch, senior wing Charles Curcio broke Gettysburg's career receptions record with the 132nd of his career. It would turn out to be the final career catch for Curcio, who finished with nine receptions for 84 yards and a touchdown. Curcio had a reception in the final 33 games of his collegiate career.
"There have been so many great players coming through here, so to have the most receptions is such an honor," said Curcio.
Starting in place of injured starter Kyle Whitmoyer, Smith drew high praise from his teammates.
"He was the coolest guy in the huddle," said Curcio. "For a guy not being able to play all season and to come into that situation, not once did he look nervous at all."
"It felt great to be back out on the field," said Smith. "It was all about the seniors. They had a great day – there were a couple of records broken and it was awesome."
Senior Jamel Mutunga added 94 yards rushing and a touchdown on 25 carries for Gettysburg, which returned a pair of interceptions for touchdowns. Senior tailback Anthony DeSalva contributed 85 yards rushing and a touchdown while returning two kickoffs for 45 yards, finishing with a single-season school record of 857 kick return yards, second in Centennial Conference history.
Senior Mike Barrett kicked three goals, the first time a Bullet achieved the feat since John Edgar had three in a 23-7 win over Averett in 2003.
John Harrison completed 21-of-32 passes for 211 yards and four touchdowns for Franklin & Marshall (6-4, 5-4 CC). His last TD pass gave him 69 for his career, good for a Centennial Conference record.
John Kaschak rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries for the Diplomats while tight end Michael Deutch caught eight passes for 102 yards and three TDs.
While Gettysburg's offense was blowing the game open, the team's defense held F&M scoreless on six straight possessions, allowing only two first downs during the stretch. Sophomore linebacker Wes Taylor all players with 13 tackles for Gettysburg while sophomore linebackers Mark Covington and Larry DelViscio made eight stops apiece.
The Diplomats led 14-3 with 2:18 left in the first quarter before the Bullets embarked on their 41-0 run. Gettysburg outscored F&M 24-0 in the second quarter and went ahead for good (17-14) when junior cornerback Rob Pennella returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown. The Bullets pushed their lead to 31-14 when Smith stepped up in the pocket and hit Betley for a 54-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-17 with 6:37 to go in the second quarter.
Smith connected with Curcio on an 11-yard TD strike earlier in the quarter and found Betley again for a 54-yard scoring toss with 4:33 to go in the third quarter, capping Gettysburg's decisive run and making it 44-14. Two plays earlier, Smith picked up a first down on fourth-and-1 with a five-run rush to the Gettysburg-46.
The Diplomats stopped the bleeding momentarily when Deutch caught a 5-yard touchdown pass with 1:24 left in the third quarter. But the Bullets answered with an 11-play, 83-yard drive that chewed up 5:31 off the clock, and DeSalva capped the spurt with a 22-yard touchdown run with 10:52 remaining.
Five plays into the ensuing drive, junior cornerback Tyler Fasanella provided an exclamation point when he took back an interception 55 yards to make it 57-21 with 9:01 on the clock. It was the team-leading fourth interception of the season for Fasanella, who also scored a defensive touchdown on a fumble return in the season opener at Lebanon Valley.
F&M added a pair of touchdown in the final 5:36 to set the final score.