CANTON, N.Y. (Nov. 14, 2015) – The USMMA football team lost to Liberty League foe St. Lawrence, 21-14, in the final game of the regular season on Saturday at the Saints' Leckonby Stadium. In defeat, the Mariners end the year with a 3-6 overall record (2-5 Liberty), while St. Lawrence retains the Hoffman Cup and wins the 2015 Liberty League title with an 8-2 record, including a 6-1 mark in conference action.
The Mariner defense forced five turnovers throughout the game, all coming in the first half. In the first quarter alone, USMMA had four takeaways in a row and held St. Lawrence to just 1:30 in time of possession over the first 10 minutes of the game. Neither team could muster a first down until late in the quarter, however, so the game remained scoreless through most of the first.
Senior Skyler Stone (Glen Allen, Va.) picked off the very first play from scrimmage and junior Patrick Keyes (Parsippany, N.J.) jumped on a fumble on a punt return after a Mariner three-and-out. Senior Matt McDaniels (Malverne, N.Y.) had a pass picked off three plays into that drive, but just two plays later sophomore Isaac Lee (Grapevine, Texas) recorded Merchant Marine's second interception of the game. Later in the quarter, senior Jacob Hill (Glen Burnie, Md.) forced and recovered a fumble for the fifth turnover overall thus far on the day.
The Saints got on the board late in the first when senior Mike Lefflbine hooked up with classmate Leondre Simmon for a 26-yard touchdown and junior Andrew Carvalho converted the PAT kick to make the score 7-0. St. Lawrence doubled its lead with just 35 seconds remaining in the first half on a one-yard TD pass from Lefflbine to junior Matt Gardiner. Junior Channing Meyer (Norman, Okla.) forced and recovered a fumble earlier in the second quarter, but the Mariners were unable to take advantage of the turnover.
After a quiet third quarter, Merchant Marine got on the board early in the fourth on a two-yard run by freshman Wiley Martin (Polo, Mo.) that capped off an 11-play, 46-yard drive and sophomore Jake McDonough's (Wilmington, N.C.) PAT cut the Saints' lead in half.
It didn't take St. Lawrence long to respond, as the Saints returned the ball back 79-yards on the ensuing kickoff to the Mariners' six-yard line. Three plays later, SLU went back ahead by two TDs on a four-yard strike by Lefflbine to sophomore Vincenzo Ferraro.
Then it was USMMA's turn to quickly respond. The Mariners gained four first downs on four-of-five plays and got the ball down to the St. Lawrence five-yard line before McDaniels ran in his team-leading eighth touchdown of the season on a five-yard run.
The Saints took a big chunk of time off the clock on their next drive before Carvalho missed a 29-yard field goal that set up the Mariners with a chance to tie the score late in the fourth. However, USMMA gained six yards in three plays and had a fourth-down pass fall incomplete to turn the ball over on downs with just two minutes left on the clock and no timeouts remaining. St. Lawrence took three knees and claimed the victory.
McDaniels led all players in the game with 90 rushing yards and was also 1-for-11 for 11 yards in the air, while Martin contributed 73 yards on the ground. Defensively, Meyer led the squad with eight tackles. Juniors Alex Shiber (Bloomsburg, Pa.) and Marcus Kitchin (Arlington, Texas) both had seven tackles apiece. Kitchen recorded two tackles for combined losses of four yards, including a sack for a loss of two.