WILKES-BARRE -- William Paterson fifth-year senior quarterback Ryan Gresik completed 22-of-30 passes for 250 yards and three touchdowns and the Pioneer defense stifled a game-tying two-point attempt as the visiting Pioneers held on for a 21-19 season-opening victory over host King's College Saturday at McCarthy Stadium in the Betzler Athletic Complex.
After a scoreless first quarter the Monarchs found the end zone first early in the second stanza following an interception by Pete Santorelli and went on a six-play, 75-yard drive. An eight yard pass from Tyler Hartranft and a four-yard run from Kyle McGrath gave the Monarchs a first down at their own 37-yard line. On the next play Hartranft found Kempa downfield for a 48-yard pickup to the Pioneer 15. Theee plays later McGrath scored from five yards out and Kevin Mulvihill converted the point-after kick to give King's a 7-0 lead with 9:58 left in the half.
William Paterson answered three possessions later after taking over at midfield after an interception by Andre Snead. The Pioneers used 10 plays, capped by an 18-yard pass from Gresik to Julian Frazier to tie the score at 7-7 with 1:45 to go in the opening stanza. Neither team would score again as the squads entered the locker room in a dead heat.
In the third quarter the Pioneers forced a Monarch punt on the opening possession and assumed possession at its own 20-yard line. On first down Gresik lofted a pass down the right sideline to Mick Payne for a 50-yard completion to the King's 30. After five plays advanced the ball to the Monarch 12, Gresik targeted Payne again and the Pioneer receiver made a spectacular catch in the end zone against outstanding coverage by the Monarch secondary to put William Paterson on top 14-7.
After the teams traded punts on the next three possessions, William Paterson again forced the Monarchs to punt from deep in its own territory and took over at midfield with 2:01 left in the third quarter. Gresik hit Payne for 24 yards, then found Dwaine Dabney for eight more to the King's 17. Two plays later Gresik found Nickolas Burke for a 15-yard scoring strike with 14:54 left in the game as the Pioneers built a 21-7 lead.
King's, however, would not fold. After the teams traded punts the Monarchs put together a 14-play 84-yard scoring drive in which the offense converted two critical fourth-down plays to keep the drive alive. The first came on a fourth-and-three play from the Monarch 40 when Hartranft connected with Brian Atkinson for 13 yards to the William Paterson 47. The Monarchs then picked up another first down on a fourth-and-10 play when Monarch receiver Josh Sanders was tackled before the ball arrived, giving the Monarch afirst down at the Pioneer 32. A 25-yard completion to Kempa then gave King's and first-and-goal to the WPU seven-yard line. Two plays later Judens Goimbert scored off right tackle to bring the score to 21-13.
But the Monarchs made a mistake that would come back to haunt the team. In lining up for the extra-point kick, King's only had 10 players on the field/ The Pioneers took advantage as Webb Greer blocked the attempts and left the Monarchs training by eight points with 4:05 left in the contest.
William Paterson regained possession and moved to its own 42-yard line before punting with 2:19 left. King's assumed possession at its own 18-yard line with 2:07 on the clock in need of a touchdown and two-point conversion to tie the score.
A 19-yard pass to Kempa, a nine-yard completion to Sanders, and a 14-yard hookup to fullback Slade Eigenmann advanced the ball to the Pioneer 40. On the next play, Hartranft found Sanders behind the Pioneer secondary and the Monarch junior raced untouched into the end-zone for a 40-yard score. with 1:10 left in regulation.
Needing a two-point conversion to send the game into a likely overtime, Hartranft dropped back to pass but was unable to find an open receiver. The Monarch signal-caller attempted to squeeze a throw between defenders but the pass fell incomplete.
King's then attempted an onside kick but the Pioneers recovered and ran out the final 1:06 to hold on for the victory.
Gresik played a solid game for William Paterson. Despite being sacked five time, he avoided several other sacks by Monarch defenders and picked up key yardage with his feet. Payne had a big day as well, making six catches for 108 yards and one score. Brian Winfield also caught eight passes for 43 yards while Nickolous Burke added four receptions for 50 yards. The passing game was critical to the Pioneer victory as King's shut down the William Paterson rushing attack for 54 yards on 38 carries.
King's, meanwhile, got 94 rushing yards on 22 carries from McGrath while Hartranft completed 14-of-36 passes for 213 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The Monarch signal-caller was also dacked three times. Kempa led King's receivers with five catches for 105 yards while Sanders hauled in three passes for 62 yards. Atkinson and Eigenmann caught two passes apiece,
Defensively for King's, Nick Kaijala had 10 tackles while Jake Ksiazkiewicz posted nine tackles and a sack. Ron Garrett and Kris Matthews made eight stops each while Santorelli made seven tackles with one sack and one interception. Anthony Martuccio and Chad Curtice registered five tackles apiece while Curtice also contributed two sacks. Ben Ray had four tackles and the final sack for the Monarchs.
King's will have an off-week before traveling to Annville on September 21 to open the Middle Atlantic Conference schedule against Lebanon Valley College.