PLEASANTVILLE, N.Y. – Trailing by a game-high 14 points through the first 20 minutes of play, the Saint Anselm College football team rallied to capture a 35-34 victory over the host Setters from Pace University on Saturday.
Saint Anselm collects its first victory of the 2017 season, improving to 1-6 overall and to 1-5 against Northeast-10 Conference foes. Pace drops to 3-4 on the year and to 2-4 versus league opponents.
Hawks quarterback Eric Fairweather led his team with three rushing touchdowns, carrying the ball 27 times for 134 total yards. He was also 14-for-22 through the air, hooking up with junior Kyle Hill with an 11-yard pass that ultimately proved to be the game-winner with 6:37 left on the fourth quarter scoreboard.
Trailing by a 35-28 margin with 1:16 left in regulation time, Darius Jones reeled in a 37-yard pass from Pace signal-caller Dan Anerella to cut the hosts deficit to one point. Immediately following the score, the Setters were flagged for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that pushed the point-after attempt backward.
Needing a point to tie, the Setters' Pat Davis failed to make the point-after attempt. However, Davis redeemed himself by recovering his own onside kick. The Saint Anselm defense stood tall across the next 21 seconds, forcing a pass attempt on 4th-and-5 that fell to the ground, incomplete, and clinched the win for the Hawks.
Anerella helped the home team sprint out to a 14-0 lead with two long passing plays, hooking up with Daryl Nixon with 19 seconds left in the first quarter on a 40-yard pass to cap a three-play, 64-yard drive. A five-minute drive to open the second quarter was finished with a 46-yard aerial to Jared Bolden that, with the help of a Pat Davis point-after on each score, created the Pace lead.
The first Saint Anselm score was a six-yard run by Fairweather with 1:31 left in the second quarter. The drive was started with a forced fumble and a recovery by Eric Mercer – the defensive effort was followed by a 21-yard run by Correy King before Fairweather's first rushing touchdown of the day.
Fairweather would score two-straight eight-yard rushing touchdowns with the first coming at the end of a five-play, 52-yard drive to open the third quarter. Mercer was at it again in the game's second half, blocking a punt and recovering the ball for the Hawks. The drive was finished with yet another dash home by Fairweather.
Ahead 21-14 late in the third quarter, Jhalen Bien-Aime rushed home with a one-yard touchdown run to knot the score at 21 apiece following another Davis point-after. The highlight of the Pace scoring drive came with an Anerella pass to Nick DeVere, earning his team a clutch first down following a 48-yard reception.
Wilden Germain answered for Saint Anselm on the very next possession, recreating a 28-21 lead for the Hawks with the help of a Daniel Parisi point-after attempt. Not to be outdone, Pace received the ball back and immediately scored with the help of a 40-yard passing play before a 38-yard rush by Bien Aime – the Setters needed only two plays for 78 yards and only 49 seconds of time to draw the score even once again
Hill scored the go-ahead touchdown on the very next possession, wrapping up a 10-play, 67-yard drive that spanned nearly seven minutes of play. The Hawks were helped by four pass completions and four rushing attempts by Fairweather, who was assisted by Nicholas Fiorillo and his two catches for a combined 29 yards.
King finished behind Fairweather with 63 net rushing yards off of 11 carries. Fiorillo and Hill completed the day with four catches for 38 and 37 yards, respectively, with King reeling in three passes for 38 yards. Freshman Zaywhon Johnson returned four kickoffs for 125 yards, including a 38-yard return which was a game-high.
Mercer joined CJ Miller with six tackles as the Hawks were led defensively by Nate Lewis and his eight total takedowns. Collectively, Saint Anselm posted eight tackles for a combined loss of 50 yards and the team added three pass breakups and one block.
Bien-Aime reached the 100-yard rushing plateau with exactly 100 yards and two touchdowns. Dan Pelish led Pace with 10 tackles.
Saint Anselm returns to action Saturday, Oct. 28, traveling to Merrimack for a 1 p.m. showdown at the newly-opened Warrior Stadium.