HUNTINGDON, Pa. – Sophomore Sal DeBenedetto (Old Tappen, N.J./Northern Valley) hauled in the longest touchdown catch in program history, junior Justin Lessel (Orefield, Pa./Parkland) posted the longest interception return in six years, and junior Mike Welsh (Medford, Pa./Shawnee) scored the game-winning touchdown with 32 seconds left to send Gettysburg College (1-5, 1-4 CC) past Juniata College (2-4, 2-3 CC) 31-28 in a Centennial Conference football showdown at Knox Stadium on Saturday.
Top Performers - Gettysburg
- Logan Edmond '23 (Coopersburg, Pa./Southern Lehigh) – 17-30, 254 Passing Yards, 2 TDs, 2 INT, 18 Carries, 97 Rushing Yards
- Mike Welsh '21 – 14 Carries, 61 Rushing Yards, TD, 3 Receptions, 36 Receiving Yards
- Sal DeBenedetto '22 – 4 Receptions, 138 Receiving Yards, TD
- Justin Lessel '21 – 7 Tackles, 2 Interceptions, Interception Return TD
- Alex Stillman '22 (Redding, Conn./Joel Barlow) – 10 Tackles, 0.5 Sacks, Interception
- Mike Galaida '22 (Mount Laurel, N.J./Lenape) – 10 Tackles, 3.0 TFL, 2.0 Sacks
Top Performers – Juniata
- Austin Montgomery – 21-35, 345 Passing Yards, 3 TDs, 4 INT
- Charles Debose – 9 Carries, 51 Rushing Yards, TD
- Shaheed Ross – 7 Receptions, 114 Receiving Yards, TD
- Bryson Clark – 10 Tackles, 0.5 TFL
- Jamel Foster – 8 Tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1.0 Sack, Interception
- First Quarter: Juniata scored on its second possession as Montgomery connected with Calvin Bembry for a 63-yard score. The extra-point was off target, opening the door for Gettysburg to seize the lead by the end of the period. The Bullets did just that as Lessel stepped in front of Montgomery's pass and ran it back 56 yards to pay-dirt. Senior Justin Geisel (Charlotte, N.C./Charlotte Country Day School) hit the extra point to give Gettysburg a 7-6 lead.
- Second Quarter: Gettysburg's defense stuffed Juniata inside the red zone to open the period and forced the Eagles back on a penalty and two sacks. Galaida went solo on the first QB hit before teaming up with sophomore Alex Raimondo (Coatesville, Pa./Coatesville) on third down. On the very next possession, Edmond found DeBenedetto for a 98-yard touchdown catch to push the Bullets in front 14-6. Later in the quarter, Edmond highlighted a drive with a 25-yard rush before connecting with senior Kevin Benavente (San Diego, Calif./Mt. Carmel) for a three-yard touchdown catch and a 21-6 advantage at halftime.
- Third Quarter: The visitors scored on their opening drive of the second half, covering 73 yards in 13 plays and ending on a 26-yard boot through the uprights by Geisel. Juniata answered with a long drive of its own covering 78 yards. Montgomery found Ross for a 29-yard scoring strike and the two-point conversion was successful to slice Gettysburg's lead down to 24-14. Juniata appeared poised to cut the margin down more in the period after gaining possession in Gettysburg territory, but Lessel posted his second interception to end the threat.
- Fourth Quarter: Juniata reached Gettysburg ground on a punt return midway through the quarter and despite back-to-back hits in the backfield by the Bullets, the Eagles managed to convert on third-and-long as Montgomery found Ben Lauver for a 46-yard reception. Debose polished off the drive with a short plunge into the end zone to pull Juniata within three at 24-21. The momentum stayed in the host's favor as Edmond's pass was picked off by Joshua Singleton on the next drive. The Eagles converted the turnover into a touchdown with Montgomery lobbing a pass to Clay Spencer for 23 yards and a 28-24 lead with 2:46 left. Gettysburg wasted no time charging up the field on its final full drive as Edmond completed four first-down passes, including two to DeBenedetto. The final pass completion put the Bullets just three yards shy of the goal line and Welsh charged in two plays later for the game-winning score. Montgomery kept it exciting to the end, completing a fourth-and-long pass to Ross for 28 yards to reach the Bullets' side of the field. Two plays later, Stillman grabbed the pass to seal the victory.
By the Numbers
- Juniata edged Gettysburg in total offense 439-421 with 345 coming through the air. The Bullets held a 167-94 lead in rushing yards.
- Gettysburg set season highs for sacks (7.0) and interceptions (4). The four picks were the most since the Bullets posted four against Susquehanna in 2017.
- Lessel's 56-yard interception return was the longest by a Gettysburg player since A.J. Hill '15 went 69 yards against Franklin & Marshall in 2013. It was also the first interception return for a touchdown since Chris Miller '17 went 55 yards for a score against Franklin & Marshall in 2014.
- Edmond and DeBenedetto broke the 19-year old program record for longest pass completion. The previous mark was 90 yards by Dennis Flaherty '01 to Pat Jordan '01 against Dickinson College in 2000. Flaherty and Jordan did not reach the end zone, making the previous longest touchdown catch 87 yards by Chris Notarfrancesco '95 from Chris Adams '95 against Franklin & Marshall in 1994. Edmond and DeBenedetto also hooked up for a 78-yard reception in the last game against Moravian this season.
- DeBenedetto's 138 receiving yards were a career high and were the most by a Bullet since Ty Abdul-Karim '18 went for 214 against Moravian.
- Geisel booted his 28th career field goal on Saturday. That ties the senior with Josh Huson '09 for second place on Gettysburg's all-time list. Jim Flynn '86 is the all-time leader with 38 made field goals.
- Edmond went over 300 yards of total offense for the second consecutive game. After posting 307 total yards against Moravian, the first-year quarterback logged 351 against Juniata. He has rushed for 222 yards in the last two games.
"I'm so proud of our players. They kept battling. Our players have been working hard and staying positive. There were so many big plays today in all facets of the game. It was a total team effort. I also want to say a big thank you to all our supporters who made the trip." – Head Coach Kevin Burke '90.
Where the Series Stands Now
Gettysburg picked up its third consecutive win in the series with Juniata. The Bullets improved to 24-10 all-time against the Eagles. Four of the last five meetings have been decided by a touchdown or less.
Big Skill Award
Senior Ethan Kendzulak (Flemington, N.J./Delaware Valley) was given the Steve Hayes Memorial Big Skill Award during Saturday's game. The award recognizes players that show a love for their craft who work hard every day to improve their skill set and who have earned the respect of their teammates and coaches by being "all-in" for the team. Kendzulak has started the last 20 games at right tackle for the Bullets. Hayes an assistant coach at Juniata for over two decades and passed away in 2016.
Gettysburg meets No. 16 Johns Hopkins University (4-2, 3-2 CC) at Homewood Field next Friday at 7 p.m. The Blue Jays have won the last 11 meetings and lead the all-time series with the Bullets 24-20-2.