By Tanner Swan, Sports Editor
The St. John Fisher football team dropped 10 spots in the top 25 rankings after losing its first game of the season to Utica College on Saturday, Oct. 15.
Fisher is now 6-1 overall and 4-1 in conference play while Utica improves to 5-2 overall and 3-2 in the Empire 8.
The 23-6 defeat was especially surprising due to the Cardinals’ lack of offense. The team had averaged 39.5 points a game heading into the week.
The game was scoreless until the 6:44 mark of the second quarter when the Pioneers finally recorded a short field goal. Utica quickly forced another three and out and responded with an eight play drive that concluded with a Ryan Burnett touchdown run. After a muffed snap on the extra point, the score was 9-0 going into the half.
Utica continued its momentum by scoring on its first drive of the second half with a 33-yard touchdown run by Lindell Reed.
Fisher was able to score its first touchdown of the game with a goal-line run by Tony Fusco, but failed to convert on the two-point conversion making the score 16-6.
The Cardinals have shown the ability to rally for comeback victories most notably with their win over Brockport. However, that was not the case for this particular game as the offense failed to crack the Pioneer defense.
It is noteworthy that it was both Fusco and quarterback Matt Naton’s first game back from an injury. Naton, who had been tearing defenses apart prior to missing two games with a non-throwing-hand injury, was 16 for 39 with two interceptions. However, he did manage to throw for 226 yards. Fusco rushed for 48 yards on seven carries.
Despite the loss, Fisher still remains in the top 25 rankings. The Cardinals will have an opportunity to potentially put itself in a position to earn a bid into the NCAA championships if they win their remaining three games.
The winner of the Empire 8 will receive an automatic bid, but it is possible that at least one other team in the conference will be granted what is termed an “at large bid” to make the tournament.
Fisher currently sits in second place one game back from the undefeated Alfred team. That will set up what could be a winner-takes-all matchup for the last week of the season between Fisher and Alfred.
Before that matchup, Fisher will have to take care of Ithaca and Hartwick. The contest with Ithaca will be on Saturday, Oct. 22 at 1 p.m.