Clarion, PA – They say defense wins championships, but tonight it won a season opener.
The Clarion University football team defeated visiting Fairmont State University in a defensive battle, 7-0.
“Pitching a shutout, those aren’t easy. It doesn’t matter who you are or who you are playing against. The defense came up with play after play,” Head Coach Jay Foster said after the game.
Before the game, Foster said that the x-factor would be the young wide receiving core and if they would be able to catch the football. They did just that.
The game’s lone score in the game came in the third quarter after junior quarterback Ben Fiscus, hit freshman wide receiver Mark Nicholas for a 27-yard touchdown with 7:27 left in the third quarter.
The winning touchdown drive started off on the Clarion 16 yard line and they marched 84 yards down the field in eight plays.
“I’ve been trying to lead those guys on, because they are new to the game. They were real nervous today and I was just trying to cool them down and I told them after the first catch to just calm down. He [Nicholas] performed great and he’s all excited.” Fiscus said.
The two teams traded possessions throughout the first half, with neither team able to put points up on the board. Fairmont State had a chance to score, but place kicker, Johnny Dearstine’s 42-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right.
A Clarion drive was halted due to an interception thrown by Fiscus. On the ensuing possession, FSU drove down the field before its drive came to a halt after a fumble, which was recovered by Clarion safety, Andrew Paronish on the Clarion 37 yard line.
Clarion’s defense came up huge to start the second half, led by senior defensive end, Sean Motley. After a holding call and an incomplete pass, Motley sacked FSU quarterback, Bobby Vega, for a loss of 7, forcing the Fighting Falcons to punt.
“It was great, man. I just got to thank God first of all,” Motley said.
Clarion had a chance to ice the game with 5:55 to play after Paronish picked off a Vega pass. Clarion drove down to the FSU 12 yard line before the offense stalled. Clarion place kicker, Nathan Conway’s 19-yard field goal attempt was blocked.
Fairmont State took over with 2:56 left. Clarion’s defense stepped up down the stretch, despite being flagged for pass interference in the end zone with 58.8 seconds to play.
That set up a first and goal from the Clarion eight yard line.FSU had its first pass broken up before being called for holding to send them back to the Clarion 28 yard line. Two plays later, FSU was flagged for yet another hold, leaving it with a 3rd and 15. The next two plays were knocked down in the end zone and Clarion took a knee to seal the victory.
The game was televised on ROOT Sports Pittsburgh.
Clarion opened up its new student section, the “Eagle’s Nest,” which saw over 600 students in the section.
“I loved it. We have to keep it up. It’s good to have fans behind us and it makes us that much better,” junior defensive end, Adam Bostick said.
Clarion will return to action on Saturday, September 8 when it travels to C.W. Post in New York. That will mark the first of three straight away games for the Golden Eagles.
“It’s not going to be easy the next three weeks. We just have to come up and look at the film tomorrow, evaluate, and fine tune the things we have to get better at,” Foster said.
Clarion gained 291 yards of offense in the game. Fiscus connected on 14-21 pass attempts for 136 yards, a touchdown and an interception, while rushing for 81 yards on 15 carried. Sophomore Bobby Thomas rushed 20 times for 81 yards. Junior wide receiver Jon Reid caught five passes for 58 yards, while Nicholas hauled in three passes for 34 yards and a touchdown.
The defense was led by junior cornerback Anthony Stimac who had 11 tackles. Sophomore Brian Palmiere finished with 10 tackles. Bostick had a key interception to go along with four tackles and a forced fumble.
Article by Eddie McDonald
Photo Credits: Clarion University Sports Information