SUSQUEHANNA — Most of the big plays in Saturday’s season opener occurred while GAR was in possession.
The Susquehanna defense, however, made the biggest when Devon Dubanowitz jumped in front of a pass early in the second half and took it 24 yards for a touchdown that helped the Sabers to a 33-24 victory at William Emminger Memorial Field.
After Dubanowitz’s interception return with 9:16 left in the third quarter made it 20-12, GAR played from behind, trailing by eight or more for all but 4:44 the rest of the way.
“Coming out in the second half, I made a poor decision,” GAR coach Paul Wiedlich Jr. said. “I didn’t send a guy in motion and we ran a slant, so there were two defenders over there and a safety over the top.”
GAR outgained Susquehanna, 203-105, in the first half but trailed, 13-12, at the break. It lined up to kick after the first touchdown, but a bad snap led to the first of two straight incomplete passes on conversion attempts. The Grenadiers then missed a field goal attempt late in the half.
Susquehanna controlled play much of the second half, but GAR came up with two gains of more than 50 yards in an attempt to offset being thrown for 50 yards in losses during the second half and 63 in the game.
Justice Lomas turned the corner for three touchdown runs and sophomore quarterback Kam Taylor passed for 185 yards along with running for a 52-yard score.
“It’s just a growing pain,” Wiedlich said. “There’s nothing to get upset about, but we have to get better at all three facets of the game.”
Sophomore linebacker Noah Taylor led the defense with seven tackles and six assists. But, as Wiedlich is reminded of and reminds others, there is no time to build with youngsters because it is the school’s last season before the Wilkes-Barre athletic programs merge with consolidation looming.
“We’re putting our best 11 on the field,” said Wiedlich of a group that often included multiple freshmen and sophomores.
Lomas ran 5 yards for a touchdown on the second play of the second quarter. The score completed an 80-yard drive that included a 35-yard, Taylor-to-Malachi Williams pass.
William Perry’s 47-yard kickoff return helped set up Susquehanna’s 35-yard touchdown pass from C.J. Stone to Mason Deakin.
Freshman Rodsheen Ayer picked up a Taylor fumble and not only retained possession but took off on a 33-yard run on the next possession. That helped set up a 20-yard touchdown by Lomas for a 12-6 lead with 6:58 left in the half.
Susquehanna answered with an 11-play, 58-yard drive. Sam Cosmello went off tackle for 11 yards on fourth-and-nine, then scored on a 3-yard run for a 13-12 halftime lead.
GAR ultimately was 0-for-4 on conversions, which played into second-half strategy, keeping the Grenadiers behind and later behind by two scores.
Taylor broke a 52-yard touchdown run, but when the Grenadiers tried to run for the tying two-pointer, Ryan Carmody and Perry stopped them short.
Cosmello and Decker scored for the Sabers on short touchdown runs in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter. The last touchdown was set up by a bad punt snap that caused GAR to give the ball up at the 2.
Lomas ran 6 yards for his last touchdown with 6:59 left, but the Grenadiers never got past their 32 with the ball again.
Susquehanna 33, GAR 24
GAR`0`12`6`6 — 24
Susquehanna`0`13`7`13 — 33
GAR – Justice Lomas 5 run (pass failed after bad kick snap), 11:18
S – Mason Deakin 35 pass from C.J. Stone (kick failed), 10:08
GAR – Lomas 20 run (pass failed), 6:58
S – Sam Cosmello 3 run (Deakin kick), 2:46
S – Devon Dubanowitz 24 interception return (Deakin kick), 9:16
GAR – Kam Taylor 52 run (run failed), 3:40
S – Cosmello 3 run (Deakin kick), 10:56
S – Garrett Decker 5 run (kick failed), 8:15
GAR – Lomas 6 run (kick failed), 6:59
RUSHING — GAR, Justice Lomas 15-67, Rodseheen 8-44, Kam Taylor 6-32. S, C.J. Stone 9-62, Adam 13-58, Sam Cosmello 8-53, Garrett Decker 7-22, William Perry 5-8.
PASSING — GAR, Taylor 13-25-1-185. S, Stone 3-6-0-60.
RECEIVING — GAR, Malachi Williams 5-90, Tyrone Qualls 4-20, Will Johnson 2-54, Christian Hernandez 1-13, Lomas 1-8. S, Mason Deakin 1-35, Devon Dubanowitz 1-16, Anthony Dolfini 1-9.
INTERCEPTIONS — GAR, none. S, Dubanowitz 1-24.
MISSED FIELD GOALS – GAR, Amigon 32. S, None.