Pioneers keep hope alive with latest win

Published on November 4, 2011 by

The Sacred Heart gridders may be a longshot to win the Northeast Conference (NEC) championship, but they kept their hopes alive with a 27-15 home win versus Robert Morris last Saturday. The Pioneers are now 5-3 overall and 3-2 in conference play.

To keep their hopes alive, the Fairfielders need a win Saturday in Staten Island against Wagner. The Seahawks are 1-7, have lost seven straight games and sit in seventh place in the NEC. Sacred Heart is tied with Bryant for third place, while undefeated Albany (6-2, 5-0) sits in first place.

SHU is 3-0 on the road this season as they prepare to invade Staten Islandpicked up a win earlier this season in upper Manhattan against Columbia. A victory over Wagner would clinch a winning season for the Pioneers for the first time since 2008. The Seahawks were shutout, 24-0, versus Albany last week but have dropped three games on their current slide by one possession.

Against Robert Morris in Pittsburgh, the locals squelched the defending league champion 27-15. The Pioneer defense forced three turnovers overall and shutout the Colonials in the second half.

Quarterback Tim Little threw for two touchdowns and rushed for another score. Niko Sierra came up big for the SHU defense, hauling in two interceptions and registering one of the Pioneers five total sacks.

Robert Morris (2-6, 2-3 NEC) scored its only touchdown on the game’s opening possession as QB Jeff Sinclair found room on the left side for a 22-yard scramble into the end zone. However, the Colonials next turn with the ball would come to an abrupt end after Sierra snagged his first INT of the afternoon. The turnover set up the Pioneers first points as Chris Rogers booted through a 32-yard field goal to make it 7-3 at the 7:22 mark of the opening quarter.

The Colonials would get points on the ensuing possession but would be forced to settle for a field goal of their own. Chris Mandas came up with a huge tackle in the backfield on third and short to force the RMU offense off the field. He finished with eight tackles

On the Pioneers next drive it was Little who dove across the goal line to knot the score at 10-10. The Colonials got good field position to start their next drive and capitalized for a field goal regain the edge, 13-10.

The Pioneer offense would answer right back with a 58-yard touchdown march. The final 40 yards of the drive came on back-to-back passes to Greg Moore. Moore finished the game with 171 all-purpose yards to go along with his 24-yard TD catch that gave SHU a 17-13 advantage heading into halftime.

The third quarter started as a defensive battle as neither side could pick up more than one first down on either of its first two possessions. The Pioneers broke through with the first points of the second half following a six play, 64-yard drive. Tate was left alone in the corner of the end zone and Little connected with his red-shirt junior receiver from seven yards out for six points, moving the score line to 24-13. Both defenses locked down yet again and combined to force six consecutive three and outs.

It would be the Sacred Heart special teams unit that came up with the next impact play of the afternoon. Preston Sanford delivered a big hit on RMU’s Anthony Coleman as he attempted to field a bouncing punt. Sanford also recovered the loose ball, which would eventually lead to the final offensive score of the contest. Rogers came on shortly later to knock in a 28-yard field goal, giving Sacred Heart a two score cushion, 27-13, with 5:44 remaining in regulation.

Sinclair and the Colonials moved down the field with time winding down and faced a third and goal at the nine-yard line. Sierra stepped in front of a Sinclair pass headed for the end zone for his second interception, virtually sealing the win and completing the SHU defense’s superb second half. The Pioneers then ran the ball three times, burning clock and Robert Morris’ timeouts. Sacred Heart then elected for an intentional safety, accounting for the 27-15 final score, rather than punting from against the back line.

The next home game for the Pioneers is at noon, Saturday, Nov. 12 at Campus Field. The locals take on second-place Duquesne (7-2/5-1).