By Evan Bourtis, Staff Writer
Both quarterback Matt Naton and running back Tony Fusco returned to Growney Stadium after early-season injuries to help the Fisher football team earn a 34-17 victory over Ithaca College on Saturday Oct. 29.
The victory was especially sweet for the Cardinals since they were playing for a packed stadium of Fisher students, parents, and alumni, after suffering their first loss in an away game to Utica College.
The Cardinals’ first drive was not very productive, as the Ithaca Bombers’ defense seemed to quickly find a way to stop Fusco. An incomplete pass to Shane Ross prevented Fisher from earning any first downs on their first drive. The Bombers’ first drive revealed quarterback Wolfgang Shafer’s accurate passing ability, leading the team to a 23-yard field goal to make the score 3-0.
A deep punt by Devin Dzikowicz and a quick tackle put Ithaca at the 15 yard line to start their next drive. A sack in the end-zone by defensive lineman Chris Smith, who took over Fusco’s spot in the backfield as he was recovering from injury, gave Fisher a rare two points.
Fisher used the momentum to score on its next drive, but it didn’t stop there, as receiver Mike Collichio caught a two-point conversion pass making the score 10-3.
A 3rd down pass to Bombers’ receiver Evan Skea tied the game at 10-10. On Fisher’s last drive before the end of the first half, Dzikowicz succeeded in kicking a 30 yard field goal, giving Fisher a 13-10 lead.
During the 3rd quarter, Naton ran into trouble after he was sacked on the 12 yard line on second down. The Cardinals were able to make up for the lost play when Naton connected with freshman receiver Dylan Harrington for a 22-yard completion and a first down. That was then followed up by another 13-yard pass caught by Harrington, yet this time it was for a touchdown.
The Fisher defense continued to discourage an Ithaca comeback as Chris Smith sacked Shafer, earning him his second sack of the day.
Ithaca’s Brian Balsamo made the game more competitive at the start of the 4th quarter after he caught a 14-yard pass from Shafer for a touchdown, making the score 20-17 Fisher.
The Cardinals next play made the crowd stand on their feet, as William Coon caught a long pass from Naton and broke free for another touchdown.
Special teams player Richard Ewell gave Fisher a final touchdown to remember after blocking a punt deep into Ithaca territory and rushing the ball into the end-zone.
The Cardinals now prepare for senior day where they will take on Hartwick College on Saturday Nov. 5 at 12 p.m. Alfred is Fisher’s main competition right now in terms of earning the Empire 8 automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Alfred faces Utica this Saturday before the potential winner-take all matchup in the last regular season game against Fisher.
If Alfred were to lose against Utica and Fisher defeats Hartwick, the Cardinals would have the opportunity to claim its first ever outright Empire 8 title. If Alfred and Fisher either both lose or both win, then the Cardinals would have to win against Alfred to earn a shared Empire 8 title. Regardless, even with a shared-title the Cardinals would still earn the automatic bid to the NCAA’s with a win over Alfred on Nov. 12.