Rensselaer narrowly defeated by Saints

JUST THREE POINTS SHORT, FOOTBALL LOST a tough game against St. Lawrence on Saturday (file photo).

It was a story of two halves Saturday in the North Country as RPI football visited the St. Lawrence Saints. The Saints dominated the first half, scoring 24 points to Rensselaer’s zero. The second half was almost the complete opposite of the first, as RPI mounted a frantic comeback charge. But, despite two late touchdown scoring drives, they fell three points short, with a final score of 24-21.

On the second play from scrimmage, St. Lawrence running back Maurice Irby burst through a gap in the RPI front line and sprinted 59 yards down the sideline for a touchdown. Then, after RPI went three and out on its first drive, Saints safety James Holley-Grisham returned the subsequent punt 33 yards to the RPI 28.

This time, St. Lawrence quarterback Mike Lefflbine completed two passes to tight end Mitch Gallagher for 28 yards and a touchdown in 51 seconds. The touchdown put St. Lawrence ahead by 14 with just over three minutes elapsed.

Later, after a second three and out by RPI, St. Lawrence had a first and 10 at the RPI 37. Lefflbine threw to the end zone, but was intercepted by senior defensive back Teague Florio at the RPI four-yard line.

Senior quarterback Jeff Avery completed 24 out of 47 passing attempts for 348 yards and two touchdowns. His longest was to his favorite target, senior wide receiver Logan Gaddar, on the third Engineer drive of the game. The catch gave Rensselaer a first and ten at the St. Lawrence 14. But after a holding penalty, a dropped pass, and a missed field goal, the game remained 14-0 Saints.

Midway through the second quarter, Lefflbine found wide receiver Vincenzo Ferraro open in the flat and Ferraro did the rest, outrunning the RPI secondary for a 77-yard score. Then, late in the first half, Lefflbine hit Gallagher over the middle for 20 yards and Irby ran wide for 19 yards to set up a 29-yard field goal for Saints kicker Andrew Carvalho.

The Engineers trailed by 24 after 30 minutes of play. On the first drive of the second half, Avery completed six of seven passing attempts for 76 yards, including a 20-yarder to junior wide receiver Joey Giacone to the Saint’s one-yard line. Senior running back Nick Schlatz scored on the next play to put the Engineers on the board.

Another long drive by the Engineers came up empty later in the third as Saints linebacker Alec Dietsch intercepted a mistimed throw from Avery at the Saint Lawrence eight-yard line with 3:12 to play in the third.

The score remained 24-7 in the fourth quarter when St. Lawrence received a 13-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct that moved the ball back to the Saints eight. The ensuing punt traveled just 31 yards and the Engineers took over at the Saints 39 with 7:18 remaining. RPI took advantage of their field position to bring themselves within 10 on a 25-yard dime from Avery to Giacone two plays later.

RPI got the ball back at their own 33 with 4:33 to play. Avery hit Gaddar for a 31-yard gain to move the chains on third and 10. Then, he completed passes to senior wide receiver Pat Hogan and sophomore running back Johnny Ramsdell for gains of 14 and nine, respectively. With time running out, Avery connected with Ramsdell on 4th and goal for a two-yard touchdown.

Just 68 seconds remained after Ramsdell’s touchdown so the Engineers attempted an onside kick. The ball bounced out of bounds and the Saints took possession, effectively ending the game.

Lefflbine finished 17 for 27 for 195 yards and two scores. In defeat, Gaddar hauled in nine catches for 172 yards to lead all pass catchers. For St. Lawrence, Gallagher recorded 10 catches for 93 yards while Ferraro caught four for 91 yards. Rensselaer struggled on the ground, tallying just 50 yards on 37 attempts while Irby took 12 totes for 106 yards for the Saints.

Junior linebacker Alex Greenidge led all defenders with 11 total tackles, while Florio and sophomore defensive back Bryan Hayes each had seven. In addition, both senior linebacker and junior defensive lineman Malik Joseph recorded a sack. The sacks marked Joseph’s fourth and Pilla’s third consecutive games with at least 0.5 sacks. For St. Lawrence, defensive lineman Chyron Brown-Wallace registered two sacks and linebacker Jayson Leigh tallied 10 tackles.

The loss moves Rensselaer to a record of 4-2 as it heads into the back half of its schedule. This Saturday they will host the University of Rochester at East Campus Stadium in their fourth Liberty League matchup of the season.