Late drive helps Warriors top Ithaca, 26-24

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WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. – For a while, it seemed like too much déjà vu.

Two years ago, a blocked extra point led to a one-point victory for Ithaca College against the Lycoming College football team in Ithaca, N.Y.

On Saturday, Sept. 25, down by one point thanks to a missed extra point in the first half, senior T.J. Chiarolonza (Warminster, Pa./William Tennet) kicked away the demons by drilling a 23-yard field goal with seven seconds remaining to help the Warriors clinch a 26-24 upset against the Bombers, ranked 13th in the coaches poll, at David Person Field.

"I felt real good," Chiarolanza said. "It's a nice, short kick for me. It was on the hash that I like to kick from and there was drama involved. I felt real calm and confident going out there. I try to treat everything like practice, stay calm, stay cool, and it seems to work for me."

After a 21-yard touchdown pass to Clay Ardoin put the Bombers (3-1 overall) ahead, 24-23, with 11:58 left, both teams traded two possessions. The Warriors (2-1 overall) gave the Bombers the ball with a punt with 3:17 left, but the Warriors' defense stood firm, allowing a two-yard run before junior Anthony Marascio (Philadelphia, Pa./Father Judge) took over, batting down a pass before sacking Bomber quarterback Rob Zappia for a loss of nine yards forcing a punt from the Ithaca 28.

"When you need to run the ball, you've got to do it," Ithaca head coach Mike Welch said. "They knew we were going to run the ball and they got extra guys in there to make the stop."

The resulting 27-yard punt was returned to the Lycoming 49, where the Warriors mounted their scoring drive. On second-and-10, sophomore quarterback Zach Klinger (Halifax, Pa./Halifax) found senior Ryan Wagaman (Aspers, Pa./Biglerville) over the middle and Wagaman did the rest, fighting through the Ithaca tacklers to the 24-yard line.

"I'm going to put my money on No. 9 (Wagaman)," Lycoming head coach Mike Clark said of the play. "He is one of the best we have had here and we believe in him."

On the next play, senior Josh Kleinfelter (Bellwood, Pa./Bellwood-Antis) did much the same, running up the middle for a 12-yard gain. Kleinfelter, who finished with a bruising 193 yards, added six more yards over the next two plays to set up Chiarolonza.

 "I believed that T.J was going to put it in, and we put the ball in our best player's hands in (Josh Kleinfelter) so we could put the kid in the right spot to try and win the game," Clark said.

The Bombers tried to ice the kicker, who has converted all five of his field goal attempts this year, calling back-to-back timeouts, but Chiarolonza was unfazed, drilling the 23-yarder to give Lycoming the 26-24 lead. A squib kick helped ensure the Warriors would get the last seven seconds off the clock, securing the school's second win in six meetings with Ithaca.

The Warriors got off to hot start, stalling a Bomber drive at midfield before driving 69 yards on eight plays to take a 6-0 lead with 10:33 left in the first half, as Kleinfelter started the drive with a  38-yard run and finished it with a nine-yard rush. However, the missed extra point helped the Bombers take the lead just four plays later as Zappia found Dan Ruffrage for a 55-yard touchdown.

After a Warriors three-and-out, Zappia kept the Bombers tolling, as he found Joseph Ingrao for a 32-yard completion. After a pass interference penalty, Clay Ardoin put the Bombers up by eight with an 11-yard touchdown run with less than minute left in the first half.

Lycoming responded, though, with a  12-play, 64-yard drive to move within a point, as Klinger found Wagaman and senior Mark Ryan (Philadelphia,  Pa./Father Judge) on first-down completions and sophomore Parker Showers (Aspers, Pa./Biglerville) ran in from one-yard out for his first touchdown of the season.

Both teams traded the ball back and forth on short drives and a pair of interceptions late in the half, with the second one being hauled in by sophomore Ryan Fenningham (Philadelphia, Pa./Father Judge) at the Ithaca 44-yard line with 1:52 left in the half.  A pass from Klinger to freshman Warren Oliver (Beverly, N.J./Palmyra) helped the Warriors move 15 yards down field to the 25-yard line and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Ithaca moved the ball to the 10, where Klinger found a leaping Wagaman in the back of the end zone, where he got both feet in before falling out of bounds, helping the Warriors take a 20-14 lead into halftime.

With their first possession of the second half, the Bombers moved 38 yards to the Lycoming 23, where Andrew Rogowski knocked through a 40-yard field goal. Meanwhile, the  Warriors looked to speed up the game with Kleinfelter, as he rushed eight of the next nine plays, covering 52 of the 59-yards in a 10-play drive that resulted in a 19-yard field goal from Chiarolanza with 4:38 left in the third quarter, helping the Warriors maintain a 23-17 lead.

The Warriors forced a three-and-out and the Warriors again looked to use Kleinfelter to speed up the game, but the Bombers stopped a four-play drive with the help of a false start penalty and the Warriors punted it away to the Ithaca 23 with 14:44 left in the game.

Coming out gunning thanks to a running attack that accumulated -14 yards on 22 tries, Zappia led the Bombers on an eight-play drive, making two first-down completions and gaining another via pass interference before finding Ardoin in the end zone for the go-ahead score with 11:26 left, setting up the Warriors' late-game heroics.

Kleinfelter once again led the Warriors, as he pounded for 193 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries, moving into second in school history with 2,942 career yards in the game, passing Tim Deasey (1998-01), who racked up 2,868 yards in his career.

"The running back was tough and ran hard," Welch said. "We were able to contain our previous opponents' backs, but he made some great plays."

Fellow senior Wagaman was key in the receiving corps, making four catches for 58 yards and a touchdown, as he moved into fifth in school history with 1,529 career yards.

Klinger was efficient behind the center, completing 15-of-25 passes for 136 yards and a touchdown, throwing his first interception in the game, Lycoming's only turnover this season.  Klinger also ran for 22 yards on six carries.

The defense was led once again by senior Chuck Bellitto (New Holland, Pa./Garden Spot), who posted seven tackles and two breakups. Sophomore Corey Schuster (Moosic, Pa./Riverside) also made seven stops and both junior Ray Bierbach (Hunlock Creek, Pa./Northwest) and sophomore Roger Jayne (Harvey's Lake, Pa./Lake Lehman) added six tackles. Both Marascio and freshman Dwight Hentz (Halifax, Pa./Halifax) each added nine-yard sacks and sophomore Josh Borelli (Hummelstown, Pa./Lower Dauphin) fell on a fumble recovery after a muffed long snap by Ithaca.

While the Ithaca running game never got going, Zappia was solid in the pocket, passing for 287 yards and two touchdowns on 20-of-33 passing. He was intercepted once. Matt Crandell finished with 107 yards on eight receptions and Dan Ruffrage finished with 100 yards and a touchdown on six touches.

Both Ryan Clarke and Will Carter posted 12 tackles, with Clarke registering two for a loss and Carter picking a pass. Andrew Haim and Josh Liemer each posted 10 tackles.

The Warriors are set to wrap up their three-game homestand on Saturday, Oct. 2 when King's comes to David Person Field for a 1 p.m. game. The game is Lycoming's Tackle Breast Cancer event.

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