Saxons beat St. John Fisher in key Empire 8 Conference matchup
ALFRED, NY – The Alfred University football team beat nationally-ranked St. John Fisher College, 42-31, Saturday afternoon at Merrill Field. With the win, AU moved atop the Empire 8 Conference standings and can clinch a second straight NCAA playoff appearance with a win against Ithaca in two weeks.
A week after losing at RPI, the Saxons (6-1, 3-0 Empire 8) played a near-perfect game against St. John Fisher (7-1, 3-1 Empire 8), which came into Saturday's game ranked 17th and 19th, respectively, in the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) and D3football.com national Division III polls.
Junior quarterback Tom Secky completed 21 of 27 passes for 211 yards and three touchdowns; freshman tailback Austin Dwyer ran for 162 yards on 27 carries; and senior wide receiver Ryan Thon caught two touchdown passes and threw for another as the Saxons racked up 439 yards of offense. Dwyer became the first runner to eclipse 100 yards against Fisher, which came into the game allowing 93 yards rushing per contest.
It was defense that got the Saxons on the board first. After punting on its opening possession, AU junior cornerback Roland O'Brien intercepted quarterback Tim Bailey on Fisher's first play from scrimmage, returning it 28 yards for a score.
Fisher responded on its next drive, going 57 yards in 11 plays, with Bailey tossing a three-yard scoring pass to wideout Ryan Francis with 7:38 left in the first. AU took a 14-7 lead on its next possession with a nine-yard Secky-to-Thon pass capping an eight-play 62-yard drive. Fisher tied the game at 14-all with just under 10 minutes remaining in the second when tailback Ryan Kramer scored on a 14-yard run.
AU sandwiched two touchdowns — a 47-yard pass from Thon to freshman wide receiver E.J. Beauford and a six-yard pass from Secky to senior tight end D.J. Loughlin-Pope — around a Fisher field goal to take a 28-17 halftime lead. Fisher scored on its opening second-half possession, driving 65 yards in nine plays, to make it 28-24 3:19 into the third, but Alfred scored two straight TDs to grab a 42-24 advantage with 10:10 minutes left in the game.
Junior linebacker Nick Clark capped an 11-play 67-yard drive with a two-yard scoring run with 5:55 left in the third, and Thon caught a 13-yard touchdown pass form Secky to end a 14-play 72-yard drive. Francis caught a 17-yard scoring pass from Bailey with 1:45 left but Fisher's onside kick failed and AU was able to run out the clock.
Thon finished with a game-high seven catches for 69 yards and two scores and freshman wide receiver Josh Phillips caught six passes for 83 yards. Dwyer, who came into the game averaging 6.5 yards per carry, averaged 6.0 yards against Fisher. AU did not turn the ball over.
Bailey, the leading passer in the Empire 8, completed 20 of 38 passes for 265 yards and two touchdowns. Francis (83 receiving yards) and Kramer (71 yards) each had six catches, with Kramer running for 82 yards and two scores on 16 carries.
Junior end Marcellus Jones had nine tackles (six solo), including two sacks, and Clark had eight tackles (one-half for loss) and two pass breakups to pace the Saxon defense. Senior linebacker Chad Pieri and junior cornerback Matt Mazur each had seven tackles. O'Brien finished with four tackles, an interception and two pass breakups.
Linebacker Brenden Moore had nine tackles (2.5 for loss) for Fisher. Linebacker Joe Leavell had eight and safety Mike Leavell and cornerback Shawn Masood each made seven stops.
Alfred plays next on Saturday, Oct. 30, at 12:30 p.m. at home against Rochester. The Saxons take on Ithaca at 1 p.m. the following Saturday, Nov. 6. With a win against Ithaca, AU would clinch a tie for the conference regular-season crown and hold the tiebreaker edge needed to win the Empire 8's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.