Photo via SLU Football Twitter
The Saints kicked off their 2016 campaign against Morrisville this past Friday. Coming off an impressive 2015 season that saw the Saints raise a Liberty League Championship banner, the boys of St. Lawrence looked to keep that momentum rolling into Friday night.
The campus was abuzz all throughout the week. The entire student body was anxious to get out and support the team in the first ever night game at St. Lawrence University. Talk of the game could be heard rumbling through the dining tables at the Pub and Dana. The players themselves walked around with an eagerness and excitement to hit the field. Head Coach Dan Puckhaber was excited as well, noting, “the team has had a great camp. It has been 22 days of hard work and preparation, and it is clear that these boys put in the work over the summer to be prepared for the grind of the preseason.” While his main focus was taking care of business against Morrisville, Coach Puckhaber made it clear that his team’s primary objective for the season is to, secure another league championship. “Being the defending champions can put a target on your back, but I expect it to elevate our play knowing that we are going to get everyone’s best shot.”
This seemed to be the truth after one quarter of play Friday night. A back and forth first frame ended with the score still knotted at 0. The Mustangs came to play in the early stages of the game with their defensive front stifling the Saints early, but that was soon to change as St. Lawrence exploded in the second quarter. The Saints put up 28 points during the next fifteen minutes and they did so in impressive fashion. Rodrick Payne pounded his way into the end-zone from 6 yards out to cap off a drive highlighted by a spectacular one-handed catch down the sideline by senior tight end Mitch Gallagher. The Saints never looked back after that.
Following an interception from defensive lineman Chris Ryan, Nick Frenger scored by scooting in from 5 yards out to give the Saints a 14-0 lead. Just three plays later, the Saints defense was able to force another turnover. This time it was Jayson Leigh who came up with the interception and found his way to the end-zone to bust the game open and give the Saints a 21-0 lead.
The cherry on top of an already dazzling quarter of football came as time expired in the second half. Quarterback Sean Richardson scrambled out of the pocket as his receivers raced down the field and heaved a high arching ball into the back of the end-zone that was tipped around and ultimately ended up in the hands of St. Lawrence receiver Vincenzo Ferraro as the clock hit zero to end the half.
All of the scoring in St. Lawrence’s 28-0 victory Friday night took place in the second quarter, but their defense was still impressive in the second half. Controlling the line of scrimmage, the Saints were able to hold the Mustangs on fourth down on both of their legitimate scoring opportunities of the second half. While the Saints failed to score after halftime, they still moved the ball well, and it was clear their offense had established a rhythm in their season opener and have much to be optimistic about moving forward.
Coach Puckhaber was quick to praise his team following the game: “Our boys went out there and executed the game plan. But we cannot dwell on this victory, we face two more tough out of conference opponents before settling for our grueling conference schedule.” After an impressive opening game win, the players were right back in the weight room Saturday morning. The grind continues as the Saints look to go 2-0 at home this weekend against Norwich University Saturday afternoon.