BANGOR, Maine — Though disappointing, Saturday afternoon’s 17-7 loss to Empire 8 Conference power St. John Fisher College does little to diminish Husson University’s already historic football season.
“Everybody at the end of this game was saying ‘Oh, we lost’ but we didn’t lose,” said senior kicker Darren Gauthier, Husson’s all-time leading scorer. “We started something — actually the people before us started something. We just helped take it to the next level.”
Husson winds up its first-ever playoff season 7-3.
The 150 hardy souls who braved the snow flurries; blustery, bone-chilling winds, and frigid temperatures to witness history at Winkin Complex were treated to a solid effort by the host Eagles, who might have won the ECAC Northeast Bowl if not for two missed scoring opportunities.
“I think you have to score when you’re down there, especially against good teams,” said Eagles coach Gabby Price. “There were two series, where we got down to the 2 and then another inside the 10, and we didn’t score.
“Especially that one at the 2, when they turned around and drove all the way down and scored after. We needed to score on at least one of those.”
Darius Charlton’s interception and 18-yard return gave the Eagles the ball at the SJF 42-yard line. Twelve plays later, Husson had a third-and-5 on the SJF-6, but Justin Lindie was tackled by Andy Episcopo for a 2-yard loss and although James McCandless’ fourth down pass was complete to P.J. Dowe of Bangor, Dowe was tackled a yard short of a first down and two short of a touchdown with 10:13 left in the first half.
The Cardinals then drove 98 yards in 21 plays and nine minutes to score the first points of the game on a 7-yard pass from backup quarterback Tom Hammel to Josiah Smith.
“I really think our 98-yard drive was big for us. I don’t think we’ve had a drive like that all year and it was big for our momentum,” said Cardinals receiver Tim Marion, who caught two passes for 38 yards.
On the game’s first series, Husson drove from its own 36 to the SJF-6 and had a third-and-inches play. McCandless fumbled the handoff and recovered the ball for a 2-yard loss and then threw an incompletion to turn the ball over on downs.
Husson did tie it (7-7) with 6:24 left in the third after Ed Rodrigues partially blocked a Cardinals punt and the Eagles drove 34 yards in two runs by Julius Williams.
The Eagles forced the Cardinals to punt on the next series, but McCandless’ pass on first down was intercepted and the Cardinals took back over, this time on their own 42. Twelve plays later, Hammel found Marion for a 15-yard TD pass.
“It’s a play-action play. I ran a comeback and normally I’m the first option, or the tight end’s coming across the middle,” said Marion.
“It was a bootleg and while I’m going through my reads, my offensive line did such a good job blocking that I went through my reads twice and Timmy got open for me,” said Hammel, who was named the game’s MVP after gaining 35 yards on the ground and passing for another 95 on eight completions.
The 7-4 Cardinals tacked on some insurance with a 22-yard field goal by Ricky Tatar with 54 seconds left.
Running back Scott Biehl led SJF’s ground game with 113 yards on 27 carries.
“We expected to come out here and pass most of the game, but the run game was working,” Biehl said. “We made some adjustments on our run game, running a few more pitches and doing some tweaking on our blocking schemes in our inside zones by pulling the guards. We knew if we could keep them inside, that would be to our advantage.”
Cory Smith led Husson’s defense with seven tackles and an assist. Pat Ouellette had three tackles, an assist, and a sack.