Fisher Edges Utica in 5 OT Instant Classic

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PITTSFORD, NY – Utica kicker Maki Medici (Watervliet, NY/Shaker) tied the school-record with five field goals, including four in overtime alone, but the gutsy effort by the freshman was not enough as host St. John Fisher scored a touchdown in the fifth overtime to lift the Cardinals to a 39-36 Empire 8 conference victory at Growney Stadium on Saturday night.

Utica (2-4, 1-3 Empire 8) rallied from an 18-9 fourth quarter deficit, scoring 11 points in the final 5:43 of regulation to force overtime on Saturday night.  The stingy Pioneer defense forced a safety with 5:43 to go to make it a seven-point game and the Pioneers followed with an 11-play, 54-yard scoring drive to tie the game at 18-18 with 40 seconds left in the fourth quarter. The game-tying touchdown was an 11-yard strike from sophomore quarterback Vinny Aloi (Chester, NY/Chester Academy) to classmate Donovan Brunson (White Plains, NY/White Plains) as regulation time wound down at Growney.  

After four overtimes saw the score knotted at 33-33, Medici drilled a career-long 39 yard field goal to give the Pioneers a 36-33 advantage, forcing another Fisher score. SJFC's James Chambers answered the call on the Cardinal's ensuing possession as he punched in the game-winning 10-yard touchdown run to cap the five-OT thriller.

The first two overtimes saw both team's kickers come through in the clutch. Medici hit field goals of 33 yards and 36 yards, while Fisher's Devin Dzikowicz drilled a 27 yarder and a 30 yarder to force a third overtime. 

Utica's Lindell Reed (Rome, NY/Rome Free Academy) then punched in the first touchdown of overtime, but the Pioneers mandatory two-point conversion attempt failed, forcing Fisher to score on their ensuing possession of the third OT.  The Cardinals answered the call again as Chambers rushed in an 8-yard score, but the Fisher two-point conversion failed, and the score was tied once again at 30-30 after three overtime periods.

Both teams exchanged field goals again in the fourth overtime to set up the game's ending.

Medici finished the night with field goals of 27, 33, 36, 31 and 39 yards for the Pioneers. He tied the school record of five field goals originally set by All-America kicker Thomas Woodburn in 2015. Malcolm Stowe (Coram, NY/Longwood) led all rushers with 136 yards on 23 carries and one touchdown.  Stowe's 44 yard TD run to open the second quarter gave Utica a 6-3 lead early in the contest. Quarterback Vinny Aloi (Chester, NY/Chester Academy) was making his second collegiate start for the Pioneers and he finished with 112 rushing yards on 22 carries to go along with 14 completions for 105 yards and a touchdown throw.

Fisher quarterback Johnathan Letta pushed in a 1-yard score with 12 seconds to go in the first half to give the Cardinals an 11-6 lead as the halftime horn sounded. Letta, predominantly a running quarterback, finished the night with 71 yards rushing on 20 carries.

Medici opened the second half scoring with a 27 yard field goal to make the score 11-9 with 13:24 to go in the third quarter. The Cardinals answered as time wound down in the third quarter with a blocked punt that was recovered by Brennen Thompson in the Pioneer end zone to give the home team an 18-9 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Lindell Reed (Rome, NY/Rome Free Academy) had 13 carries for 22 yards and an overtime touchdown run. Brunson capped his day with four catches for 29 yards and the game-tying touchdown catch with 40 seconds to go in regulation.

Senior linebacker Derrick Sekuterski (Depew, NY/Depew) added to his team lead with 15 tackles and one interception. Ben Vargas (Holbrook, NY/Sachem East) chipped in with a career-high ten tackles and one pass breakup. Keanu Heedram (Rochester, NY/Rush-Henrietta) also added a career-high ten tackles and one sack for UC. Robbie Schempp (Webster, NY/Webster Thomas) posted eight tackles and a half sack for the Pioneer defense.

Utica's staunch secondary held the Cardinals to a dismal five completions for 26 yards through the air on the evening.  Chambers finished the night with 123 yards rushing and two scores for Fisher.

The Pioneers rushed for 306 yards on the ground, marking their first 300-plus yard rushing effort since 2009. 

Fisher picked up its first win of the season as its record moved to 1-5 overall and 1-3 in conference play.

Utica returns home on Saturday when the Pioneers host Buffalo State on Homecoming at Charles A. Gaetano Stadium. The contest is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m.

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