ALFRED, NY – The Alfred University football team built a 14-point fourth-quarter lead, then held on to defeat visiting Husson University, 35-28, Saturday afternoon in the Saxons' season opener.
After a back-and-forth affair that found the teams deadlocked at 21-21 after three quarters, Alfred scored 14 unanswered points to open the fourth and go up 35-21. Husson wouldn't go away, scoring with just over three minutes left to draw within a touchdown. The Eagles had one more chance, but after taking over at their own 15 with 1:31 left, turned the ball over on downs.
Husson (0-1) took an early 7-0 lead on a four-yard touchdown run by quarterback Cory Brandon with 5:45 left in the opening quarter, which capped a seven-play, 87-yard drive. After the Saxon punted on their ensuing possession, AU freshman linebacker Isaiah Moak (Averill Park, NY/Averill Park) intercepted a Brandon pass at the Husson 38-yard line and returned it to the 13. Two plays later, senior quarterback Tyler Johnson (East Syracuse, NY/East Syracuse-Minoa) scored on a one-yard run to tie the contest at 7-7.
Brandon's 1-yard with 11:35 left in the second ended a 10-play 59-yard drive that put Husson back on top, 14-7. AU answered with two touchdowns to take a 21-14 halftime lead. Johnson's 45-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Jayden Gavidia (Homer, NY/Homer) with eight minutes left in the half tied the game at 14-14 and capped a six play, 67-yard drive. Two possessions later, Alfred drove 68 yards in eight plays, with Johnson's second TD pass, a 22-yarder to senior tight end Ralph Pagliei (Lake View, NY/Orchard Park) giving the Saxons a 21-14 advantage with 2:11 left in the half.
Husson knotted the game up at 21-21 with 5:16 left in the third on a two-yard Obie Christmas run. The two-play 63-yard drive was highlighted by a 61-yard run by Husson tailback John Smith.
After the teams exchanged punts, AU took possession at its own 8-yard line with 32 seconds left in the fourth. After a short run, Johnson took a sack at the AU 1-yard line to bring up third-and-17. On the next play, Johnson hit senior wide receiver Brendan Buisch (Hornell, NY/Hornell) streaking down the right sideline for a 69-yard gain. A personal foul on Husson put the ball at the Husson 15 and three plays later Johnson scampered into the endzone from four yards out, giving AU a 28-21 lead.
Senior tailback Casey Bright (Pulaski, NY/Pulaski) scored on a 10-yard run with 7:33 left to put Alfred up 35-21. Husson closed to within a TD when Brandon hit Deon Wiggins on a 15-yard touchdown pass to close out the scoring.
Alfred outgained Husson, 358 yards to 329. Johnson threw for 233 yards and two touchdowns, with Buisch hauling in three catches for 94 yards and senior wide receiver Emile Frigon (Utica, NY/East Syracuse-Minoa) catching three passes for 56 yards. Bright ran for 65 yards on 17 carries and Johnson had 58 yards on 14 attempts with two more scores.
Brandon threw for 181 yards with one TD and an interception. Smith had two catches for 48 yards and Greg Moore caught four passes for 47 yards. Smith ran 22 times for 153 yards to lead the Eagles' ground attack.
Junior linebacker A.J. Licata (Lake View, NY/Frontier) had 16 tackles (two for loss) and broke up two passes to lead Alfred's defense. Moak had an outstanding college debut, making 10 tackles (1 ½ for loss, 1 ½ sacks) and intercepting a pass. Senior end Charles Branwell (Brooklyn, NY/Abraham Lincoln) had a sack among his four tackles and senior free safety Shyheim Wingate (Jamaica, NY/Holy Cross) had four tackles and five pass breakups.
End Luke Washburn had 10 tackles (two sacks) and linebacker Ellis Throckmorton had seven tackles to pace the Husson defense.
AU is in action next on Saturday, Sept. 10, at noon at RPI.
Prior to the game, the Saxons recognized former AU player Julio Fuentes. In the season opener in 2006, Fuentes, then a sophomore running back, suffered a severe spinal injury that left him paralyzed from the waist down and with limited movement in his upper body and extremities.
Fuentes has undergone a decade of intense physical and occupational therapy that allowed him to regain movement in his upper body and, in recent months, to take some steps. Named honorary captain for Saturday's game, Fuentes participated in the pregame coin toss, then got up from his wheelchair and, with the aid of a walker, walked the final 15 yards off the field to the Saxon sideline as the AU faithful stood and cheered.