GETTYSBURG, Pa. – Gettysburg held off a late Franklin & Marshall rally and knocked off the Diplomats 38-31 in their season finale Saturday afternoon on Senior Day at Shirk Field at Musselman Stadium in a Centennial Conference match-up.
With the win, Gettysburg (7-3, 6-3 CC) posts its best record since the 1994 team finished 8-2. The team also finished undefeated at home (5-0) for the fifth time under Head Coach Barry Streeter and for the second time in seven years.
It was the 98th all-time meeting between Gettysburg and Franklin & Marshall, one of the team's oldest rivals. The Bullets now lead the series by the slimmest of margins, 46-45-7.
Senior tailback Ted Delia rushed for a season-high 153 yards, including a 44-yard dash that set up the Bullets inside the 10 and led to a crucial late-game field goal. He also ran for a touchdown and tied the single-season school record for TD runs (15) while finishing ninth in school history in rushing yards (1,908).
Senior quarterback Kody Smith rushed for 64 yards and a touchdown for the Bullets, which never trailed after leading 14-0 in the first quarter and 21-14 at the half. Smith also passed for 141 yards and a TD while breaking Frank Gagliardi's '59-year school record for touchdowns responsible for with 25 (13 passing, 12 rushing).
Junior quarterback E.J. Schneider passed for 380 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Diplomats (7-3, 6-3 CC), who outgained the Bullets 440-376.
Numerous Bullets made their final appearance in Musselman Stadium a memorable one. In addition to Delia and Smith's performances, cornerback D.J. Thompson returned an interception 80 yards for a touchdown, receiver Kyle Davis hauled in a 71-yard touchdown pass, linebacker Larry DelViscio made 12 tackles, defensive end Joe Ventresca forced a fumble on a sack, and safety Drew Olsen made a touchdown-saving tackle on F&M's final play from scrimmage, leading to a field goal.
The senior class finished their careers with a 22-18 record, including winning seasons in each of their final three campaigns.
"They have been totally committed, they visualized what we were trying to accomplish, and they really developed well as leaders," said Streeter, on his senior class of 16. "I'm proud of the seniors, proud of the whole football group. We finished the season well."
Thompson's big play – his first collegiate interception – gave the Bullets their largest lead (35-14) with three seconds left in the third quarter. Schneider was flushed out of the pocket, and he fired a pass down the right sideline just before stepping out of bounds. Thompson stepped in front of the ball and followed his blockers to the F&M-30 before cutting up the middle of the field. A final block from junior cornerback Hugo Nolasco at the 10 allowed Thompson to strut into the end zone untouched, marking longest interception return by a Bullet since Brian Barr had an 86-yarder against Widener in 1982.
F&M rallied with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to make it a one-possession game (35-28) when Schneider connected with Frank Strumolo on a 12-yard touchdown pass with 7:22 remaining.
But Gettysburg would respond with a 55-yard drive that led to a 31-yard field goal by freshman Robby Fay with 3:21 left. Franklin & Marshall would answer with a 23-yard field goal by Chris DeStefano with 50 seconds to go, but freshman Kevin McCarthy fell on the DeStefano's on-side kick attempt and the Bullets were able to run out the final 48 seconds.
Tim Muller caught seven passes for 114 yards and a touchdown for the Diplomats while Strumolo made eight catches for 98 yards and a touchdown to go with 29 yards rushing and a TD.
DelViscio led all players in tackles and finished his career fourth in school history with 324 stops. Freshman linebacker Kodie McNamara and junior linebacker Cody DiAmore added 10 tackles apiece for the Bullets. Brian Velasco and C.T. Marsh led F&M with 10 tackles apiece.
Fay finished 5-for-5 on extra points and tied the single-season school record with 47 PATs made while nailing his final 35.
Smith was intercepted on the game's opening drive, but the Bullet defense stopped F&M on fourth-and-2 at the Gettysburg-20, taking over on downs. The Orange & Blue then marched 80 yards on 10 plays, with Delia capping the march with a 2-yard touchdown run with 5:34 left in the opening quarter.
After forcing a three-and-out, the Bullets scored on their next possession, as a 6-yard touchdown run by McCarthy punctuated a 67-yard drive and made it 14-0 with 1:21 on the first-quarter clock.
The Diplomats pulled even with a pair of touchdowns early in the second quarter. Schneider found Muller on a 15-yard touchdown pass with 13:46 left in the half before another interception gave F&M the ball at the Bullet-38. Three plays later, Stremulo ran it in from three yards out to make it a 14-14 game with 11:40 showing.
Sandwiched between two F&M punts over the rest of the quarter was a 15-play, 66-yard Gettysburg scoring drive, highlighted by a 3-yard touchdown run by Smith with 2:22 left in the half.
The Dips opened the second half with the ball, but on their 10th play Ventresca knocked the ball loose with his strip-sack, which was recovered by senior defensive tackle Robert Swierkowski at the Gettysburg-36. Two plays later, Smith found a wide-open Davis on the left sideline. Davis caught the ball in stride at the F&M-40 and waltzed the rest of the way untouched as the Bullets went ahead 28-14 with 8:22 left in the third quarter.
The two sides exchanged punts before Thompson's pick-six. But F&M climbed back into it, first scoring when Paul McGann received a pass the 1-yard line before picking up his own fumble in the end zone to make it 35-21 with 11:56 left. The Diplomats then forced Gettysburg to punt before Schneider's touchdown pass to Strumolo cut it to seven.
On the ensuing possession, the Bullets drove all the way to the F&M-5, and on a third-and-goal Smith ran in for a touchdown. But the play was brought back on a holding penalty, and Gettysburg would settle for Fay's field goal after chewing up four minutes off the clock.
Franklin & Marshall would then drive 72 yards on 12 plays, but were unable to find the end zone thanks to Olsen's open-field hit on Jordan Zackery on third-and-goal from the 6.
Smith summed up the sentiments of many of his fellow seniors.
"It's been an amazing road. I've been playing football for 17 years and it's crazy that it's coming to an end. But it's been an awesome four years, and I couldn't ask for a better place to be. I've had a blast."
Delia echoed similar thoughts.
"My Gettysburg experience has been amazing. I love the school with everything I have. The guys I'm going to graduate with have been really tight ever since I got here. Everything's just been great – I wish I could come back for four more years."
Notes: The Bullets finished the season first in school history in rushing touchdowns (37), third in scoring (375 points), sixth in total offense (4,393 yards), sixth in rushing (2,670 yards), and 10th in passing (1,723 yards)…Gettysburg's 29 sacks were the most in team history since the 1994 team had 33… Gettysburg scored on all four of its red-zone chances, giving the team 19 straight successful trips inside the red zone to end the season…The Bullets finished the year a Centennial Conference-best 91.3 percent (42-for-46) inside the red zone… Smith finished second in single-season school history in total offense (2,449 yards)…He also ended his career second all-time at Gettysburg in touchdown passes (34), third in completions (271), third in passing yards (3,742), fourth in total offense (4,808 yards), and fourth in touchdowns responsible for (49)…Delia also finished eighth in school history in career rushing touchdowns (25)…DelViscio finished third all-time at Gettysburg in solo tackles (214) and third in tackles for loss (33.5)…Ventresca tied for fifth in school history in career tackles for loss (32.5) and tied for sixth in sacks (18.0)…Senior Mark Covington finished ninth all-time at Gettysburg in career tackles for loss (30.5)…Fay also set a school record for extra points attempted (50).